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If Stephen Harper is serious about criminalising ‘barbaric cultural practices’, then he should arrest himself for even suggesting it

Loon Watch - 23 March, 2015 - 17:39

StephenHarper

Robert Fisk Sunday 22 March 2015

And while he’s at it, he can lock up all the other Western leaders who have savaged the Muslim world too

Is Stephen Harper off his rocker? Forget his trip to Jerusalem last year when the Canadian prime minister said that criticism of Israel was a “mask” for anti-Semitism.

Ignore his utter failure to bring home to Canada al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, whose retrial was staged by the Egyptian government to give him the chance to leave for his country of adoption. Cast aside Harper’s Blair-like contention that the Islamist murders of Canadian soldiers had nothing – absolutely zilch – to do with his decision to send Canada’s F-18 jets against Isis.

Now Harper, the man with the choir-boy good looks whose pro-Israeli policies might win him a seat in the Knesset, is about to push a truly eccentric piece of legislation through parliament in Ottawa. It’s called – and I urge readers to repeat the words lest they think it’s already April Fool’s Day – the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. Yup, when I first read the phrase “Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”, I felt sure it was a joke, a line from the “Big Bang Theory” or a Channel 4 mockudrama about Nigel Farage’s first premiership.

Nope. It’s all real. But let me quickly explain that the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” in question are polygamy, “gender-based” family violence, “honour-killing” and forcing children under 16 to leave Canada for marriages abroad. I’ve no problem with legislation against this, of course. Nor have most Canadians.

I’m also against illegally invading foreign countries, colonising other people’s land, “waterboarding” and bombing wedding parties, or firing drone missiles into Waziristan villages. But these aren’t quite the “barbaric cultural practices” Mr Harper has in mind.

What’s odd about the “barbarism” he’s thinking about – although the very use of the word “culture” is intriguing now that Isis has determined that “culture” is a sin after the Tunis museum massacre – is that these “practices” are already forbidden by Canadian law.

Polygamy is illegal in Canada – although Mormon polygamists in British Columbia appear strangely untouched by the new legislation – and Canadians were a bit non-plussed to learn from their government last week that there are “hundreds” of polygamists in their country. As for “honour-killing”, murder is murder is murder, in Canada as in Britain and in the US and in almost every other country in the world.

No, the catch is that this unique legislation, which Canadian MPs will be discussing again today, is that it doesn’t come from Canada’s perfectly capable minister of justice Peter MacKay, but from the Canadian minister of – you guessed it – Citizenship and Immigration. Now isn’t that odd?

The chap in charge of Canada’s immigration policies is Christopher Alexander, who is himself a pretty “cultured” politician, a McGill and Balliol man, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, where there’s plenty of polygamy and “honour-killing” and child marriage, and, well, let’s not go into Afghan government corruption, Afghan police torture, drones and the rest.

Because in truth, the new Canadian legislation is about foreigners or – more to the point – Muslims. Hence the BC Mormons have nothing to worry about. Because the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (Bill S-7) – let us keep repeating this weird name – is playing what Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom calls the “foreign barbarian card”.

It foregrounds not crime per se but crime specifically associated with Muslims – hence the Canadian government’s legislative gloss that the act is against barbaric “traditions”. And Muslims, as we know, have for centuries been famous in Western song and legend for harems, multiple wives and disrespect for women.

There are indeed plenty of things wrong with Muslim societies. I’ve written extensively in The Independent about the scourge of “honour killings” – the slaughter of young women for refusing arranged marriages or adultery or who were merely rumoured to have behaved “immorally” (like calling a man on a mobile phone) in Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, “Palestine”, Jordan and Egypt.

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Yemen, long on the brink of catastrophe, may have tipped over the edge | Brian Whitaker

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 March, 2015 - 12:48
Friday’s mosque attacks, whoever was behind them, will intensify sectarian rivalries and invite bloody reprisals. The scene is set for a protracted civil war

Yemen has often been portrayed as a country on the brink of catastrophe. Equally often, it has defied expectations and muddled through – if only just. But the suicide attacks on two mosques that left at least 142 people dead in Sana’a last Friday are one sign, among many, that it has finally tipped over the edge.

The UN is warning helplessly about a rapid downward spiral and calling for a resumption of efforts towards a political settlement, but the prospects of that happening are virtually nil and the scene is set for a protracted civil war with multiple protagonists.

Related: Yemen mosque bombings 'could only be done by the enemies of life' – president

The UN is warning helplessly about a rapid downward spiral

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American Crime Review: Introducing Aliyah Shadeed

Muslimah Media Watch - 23 March, 2015 - 10:00
  On Thursday nights in the United States, ABC airs American Crime, an 11-part series that looks at a murder that took place in Modesto, California. The story doesn’t follow the detectives around as they solve a mystery-of-the-week like most crime shows, though, and instead focuses on the lives of everyone else involved and the [Read More...]

Theresa May set to urge UK's Muslims to help fight extremism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 March, 2015 - 01:49

Home secretary will set out broad approach for tackling ‘serious and widespread’ problem of Islamic extremism ‘head on’

Theresa May is to appeal to Muslims to help tackle extremism as she insists Britain must no longer tolerate those who fail to respect its values.

The Home secretary will say the freedoms on offer in the UK come with “responsibilities” to respect the way others live, democracy, equality and the rules of law.

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Iran nuclear deal could transform Obama and Rouhani presidencies

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 March, 2015 - 22:01

Historic agreement would be a monument to the US and Iranian leaders – hence both men are being undermined by their conservative rivals

Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani make an unlikely double act. But as negotiators from the US and Iran race towards the 31 March finishing line for a nuclear deal, this odd couple’s destinies have become inextricably linked.

The long-running saga of Iran’s standoff with the west has become a tale of two presidents. It is plain that Barack Obama is rooting for a positive result in Lausanne next week when negotiators make a final attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s suspect nuclear programme.

Related: Iran nuclear talks 'a historic opportunity' says Obama in YouTube appeal

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Race: Things we can’t say (except when we can)

Indigo Jo Blogs - 22 March, 2015 - 19:38

 Ex-race tsar says silencing of debate has done devastating harm to Britain".Last Thursday Channel 4 broadcast a 65-minute-long discourse by Trevor Phillips, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality and then (after its amalgamation with all the other equality bodies) the Equality and Human Rights Commission, on the premise that people are afraid to say certain things about race, particularly in terms of making generalisations, even though these things are true. (He could, however, say them in the Daily Mail, which ran a lengthy article by him last Monday). His other contentions were that whites are often afraid to criticise anyone that is not white, even when they are clearly doing wrong, that segregation is the cause of such events as the 2005 London bombings and the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and that the rise of movements like UKIP among whites are an understandable reaction to the “liberal metropolitan elite” ignoring their concerns about these things. (Watchable here in the UK until a month after broadcast.)

The first problem with all this is that people do say these things all the time, and they have been saying them in public, mostly in papers like the Daily Mail. For decades the right-wing press have been running inflammatory stories about race, including stories about stupid things Labour (and Liberal/Lib Dem) councils were supposedly doing to promote racial diversity in schools in the 1980s (some of them fabricated), through to the articles targeted at Muslim women who wear niqab more recently. Phillips is merely playing up to a right-wing agenda of telling them what he wants to hear and being commended by them for being “brave”, when in fact these are dominant views and not indeed all that controversial among people of his own background anymore. He also got an overlength documentary broadcast in the evening on a major TV channel; hardly the treatment of a voice crying in the wilderness.

The second claim — that “whites are presumed guilty” is true in some places (I’ve seen situations where white individuals were accused of being racist for not bowing to the demands of a voluble black blogger or activist, or not doing so quickly enough), but given that there have long been two white-dominated tabloid newspapers disseminating a daily diet of bigotry, and of lies about multiculturalism and about other cultures than their own, and two major white-dominated broadsheets backing this up with “science” and long words, one can hardly blame non-whites, immigrants, their activists, social workers who work with them, and so on, for being defensive. The situation is or at least was polarised, and only the weaker side is being blamed. As for it being to blame for Haringey social workers’ failure to protect Victoria Climbié, Phillips conveniently forgets that the same department also failed a white boy, Peter Connolly, who was also murdered by members of his family a few years later. This was a dysfunctional department and blaming cultural factors was just one excuse people used to pass the buck. And who got the blame for Victoria’s death? A black, female, junior social worker, Lisa Arthurworrey.

He also mentions a film that was commissioned to warn young girls of the dangers of grooming, which heavily featured young Asian men in flash cars chatting up girls on the streets. He claims it was suppressed because portraying Asian men as the groomers was seen as racist, so another film was commissioned which showed a white abuser and a black victim. However, the film, if shown, would have given out the message “beware of Asian men in flash cars”, when sexual abusers come in every colour and economic status, and given that the film would likely have been shown well beyond Bradford or Rotherham, the message may well have been lost on many girls. Not all the ‘Asians’ that were involved looked like Pakistanis (some of the guilty men were Kurds, who are much lighter-skinned) and even in places beyond the north where the groomers were Asians, the Yorkshire accents might have lessened the impact. The majority of sexual abusers are men, and the majority of people in the UK are white. Beyond that specific set of circumstances, a white male abuser is the more likely scenario.

The third main claim is that segregation is the cause of violence, including the London bombings and the Charlie Hebdo attacks. He claims that, for example, he warned the French authorities to “get rid of the ghettoes” after the 2005 riots in French cities, and they were ignored, and the upshot was the Charlie murders this year. This is an extremely simplistic explanation. He repeatedly uses over-emotive language such as “ghetto” and “segregation” for any situation where people of kind live together, whether by choice or not. In the case of France, where the ghettoes are on the outskirts of many cities, this was not the case; in the case of many such situations in England, it was partly their choice, although dictated by such factors as needing to be around the mosque or temple, the ethnic food shop, others who spoke the same language, and for protection against racist violence. Not all such areas even have a majority population of that ethnicity, and some are in fact majority white (e.g. Brixton, although not certain estates), but outsiders will notice that there are a lot of a certain minority there and think “they’ve taken over this area”. The shops and restaurants on the high street do not always account for the houses on the back streets, but it does not stop people scaremongering about take-overs and mini Islamic republics just because there are certain areas where women are not afraid to wear the veil.

Let’s not forget, “segregation” was a legally-enforced régime where blacks were forced to use separate facilities, from houses to bus seats to water fountains, where only (usually rich) whites were allowed to vote, and where blacks and whites were not allowed to marry each other. “Ghettoes” were overcrowded Jewish enclaves in European cities, and Jews had to live there, and the more recent ones in Nazi-occupied Poland were urban concentration camps set up to allow easy deportation to the death and work-to-death camps. While they had some benefits for the minority (or some members of it), the purpose was to keep them separate and to maintain their inferiority. They were enforced and planned; they did not just establish themselves and were not for the convenience or protection of the minorities.

In blaming an exaggerated “segregation” for riots and bombings, he ignores all the other causes. The 2005 London bombings were probably years in planning, and perhaps they chose the day after the city was chosen to host the Olympics but that has never been proven. The bombers belonged to a violent extremist movement; they may have been partly motivated by British involvement in the Afghan and Iraq wars and support for Israel, but although white and Asian areas in the north are more separate than they are in London, the same extremist movement thrived in London as well, including in highly mixed areas of west and north London — it was openly tolerated and very visible throughout the 1990s until well after the 9/11 attacks. Much the same is true of the Charlie Hebdo murders, but the French state’s open hostility to Islam, displayed in such behaviour as banning girls’ headscarves in schools (and the harassment of and discrimination against women who wear it in other public places), the obstruction of Muslim schools, police harassment of young men of Arab (and African) appearance and so on, no doubt motivates some young Muslim men to turn their backs on French society (and on certain compromised ‘moderate’ imams) and join the extremists. Other riots were clearly triggered by police brutality, both here and in the USA. The separation of communities, and lack of understanding between them, can be a factor in some of this, but extremism can thrive without it, and so can state and police oppression.

Towards the end of his documentary, he shows an interview with the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, in which he asserts that his party is “colour-blind” and that he favours scrapping nearly all legislation that bans discrimination against people on the grounds of colour. This has already been widely reported and will no doubt prove damaging to his party’s electoral ambitions. He also attends their conference, and approaches one white man and asks if they might talk about the issues later. The man says “no we won’t”, and demands that Phillips go away, and then accuses him of harassing him. It’s not clear if the man is put off by Phillips’s colour, or because he knows who he is, or because of the camera crew behind him, or indeed who the man is, but Phillips uses it as an example of how the so-called “liberal metropolitan elite” is held in suspicion by the sort of “ordinary white people” that vote for and support UKIP.

However, Phillips does not really question how liberal or indeed metropolitan this elite is. The present government is dominated by rich Tories whose policies are designed to benefit the well-off and to target people dependent on benefits, even if this is dictated by disability. They are largely public-school educated, based in the south-east but not London, and are liberal only on gay rights. Their support base is suburban and provincial, not metropolitan. The myth of the “liberal metropolitan elite” is a standard American conservative political tactic, normally deployed by members of the wealthy business elite to persuade middle-class provincial whites that they are the real men of the people, and to vote against their own economic interests. Phillips also does not investigate the role of the media in hyping up the issues at the heart of UKIP’s campaign: immigration, the loss of sovereignty to the EU, nuisance legislation, political correctness.

The show ends with him visiting a school which had paid particular attention to the needs of every community which had sent children to it, to the extent that no ethnic minority was doing particularly badly, and had now decided to focus on the needs of the white working-class children who were falling behind. The screen went blank and a slogan (one of many throughout the programme) appeared: “White (& poor) is the new black”. This is another ridiculous oversimplification, confusing economic or academic underachievement with long-standing racial prejudice and disempowerment. There is nothing like the level of antagonism going back decades between young white boys and the police as there is with young black boys and men and nothing like the history of cultural antagonism with other parts of society, or malign stereotyping. The problem of poor white underachievement has been in existence for a long time, and Phillips does not question why. It suits the powers that be for this underclass to exist; it gives them an excuse to attack teachers and social workers and their unions (that so-called liberal elite again) and an unquestioning consumer base for the mass media.

The whole documentary is a case of Phillips playing the role of the “model minority”, which is why he was appointed to head the ECHR in the first place, rather than the leaders of any of the other equalities bodies. He’s a middle-class black male with a long history as a political insider, and his status gives him precious little difficulty ingratiating himself with middle-class white males, particularly when a Labour government is in power, but as this shows, the Tory press can warm to him as well. He’s someone who speaks their language and whom they can do business with; certainly a long way from the tabloids’ stereotype of the black, one-legged, blind (Muslim) lesbian that you supposedly had to be to get money out of a Labour council, and not shouty or ‘uppity’. I have a hunch that by “segregation” he really means Muslims refusing to assimilate and that he is suggesting that people shouldn’t be afraid to say that Muslims are the problem. But his evidence is weak and he fails, or refuses, to consider, or even mention, other explanations.

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Voices behind and beyond the veil | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 March, 2015 - 18:39

I am a Muslim woman from India and find the perspectives Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s piece (Opinion, 21 March) very relevant to my identity, highlighting pertinent issues related to the veil. She rightly points to the lack of clarity as to what exactly the veil is in terms of a face-covering or a chador, and its not being an injunction in the Qur’an. Her article should be an eye opener to Muslim girls/women around the world as to the impressions and implications of the veil and how it alienates Muslim women from the mainstream in a globalised, progressive world. More and more Muslim women need to voice their concern about the increasing misuse of Islam for violence and repression, and for curbing a woman’s right to identity, healthcare and education.
Professor Sami Rafiq
Aligarh Muslim University, India

• Yasmin Alibhai-Brown does not mention men. Women’s choices to wear or not wear the veil have no meaning except in the context of male power and men’s use of women. That little girls are being turned into sexual beings is an unwelcome, but not surprising element. More to the point is the hatred and contempt for women as adult sexual beings driving these developments. Alibhai-Brown hints at the misogyny, but seems unwilling to name it.
Professor Norma Clarke
London

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Afghan woman killed by mob in Kabul was innocent, says investigator

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 March, 2015 - 12:21

No evidence found that 27-year-old Farkhunda, who was beaten and set on fire by group of men, had burnt a copy of the Qur’an

A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam’s holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan’s top criminal investigator has said.

Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows police at the scene did not save the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul on Thursday.

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Afghan skateboarding? A call-to-prayer contest? New Muslim channel has it all

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 March, 2015 - 11:41

Alchemiya, a digital TV channel that has been compared to Netflix, aims to show Islamic culture at its best

Tucked away in a former chocolate factory in Wood Green in north London, a team of producers are huddled around footage of a man enthusiastically practising the call to prayer.

The performer is one of many hoping to win Istanbul’s annual muezzin competition – the search to find the heartiest call to prayer in the Turkish city. And the results, alongside a documentary about Afghan skateboarders and a film about Islam in Japan, will be part of the launch in April of a digital TV channel that’s being described as the Muslim Netflix.

We show hope and don’t show people oppressed. There​​ are plenty of other platforms where you can see that

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Yemen mosque bombings 'could only be done by the enemies of life' – president

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 March, 2015 - 10:47

Coordinated suicide attacks that killed at least 142 people in Sana’a aimed to create internal fighting, says Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

Suicide bombings that killed at least 142 people were aimed at dragging Yemen into “chaos, violence and internal fighting”, the country’s embattled president has said.

The series of coordinated attacks on mosques in Sana’a during Friday prayers, by a group claiming to be a Yemeni branch of Islamic State, also left 345 people injured, with the death toll including 13 children.

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My boyfriend killed himself because his family couldn’t accept that he was gay

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 March, 2015 - 05:59
Nazim Mahmood jumped to his death from a balcony seven months ago after coming out to his parents. His partner of 13 years, Matthew Ogston, talks to Sarfraz Manzoor

In the spring of last year, Matthew Ogston and Nazim Mahmood moved into their dream home. The apartment, on the top floor of a mansion block in north-west London, offered stunning panoramic views of London. Nazim was a doctor who ran three London clinics, Matthew a web designer.

The life Nazim enjoyed seemed a world away from the working-class traditional Muslim community in which he had been raised. It was that world – conservative and closed – that he had left behind for a new life. In their first week in the flat, the two men stood on the balcony as London glittered in front of them. Matthew looked at Nazim and said, “Darling, I think we’ve finally made it.” They both smiled. Four months later, Nazim jumped off the edge of that same balcony to his death. He was 34.

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Isis destroys historic Christian and Muslim shrines in northern Iraq

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 March, 2015 - 19:45
  • Structures destroyed include fourth-century Assyrian memorial
  • Patriarch of Syriac Catholic church tells west: ‘Condemnation is not enough’

Islamic State militants appear to have destroyed Christian and Shia Muslim shrines in northern Iraq – including a fourth-century memorial built by an Assyrian king – in the group’s latest rampage against the embattled country’s religious and cultural heritage.

On Thursday, Isis’s “Nineveh province media office” released photographs showing the apparent destruction of the holy sites in Hamdaniya, northern Iraq.

Related: Isis attacks on ancient sites erasing history of humanity, says Iraq

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As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values | Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 March, 2015 - 19:40
When even young girls are being dressed in hijabs, we need to ask what the female cover-up symbolises

It could be a millenarian crisis or a delayed reaction to decades of bad history, but millions of Muslims seem to have turned inwards, hankering for an imagined golden age. They are contemptuous of modernity’s bendable, ductile values. Some are drawn to reactionary dogma, and preachers while a good number have thrown themselves into political Islam to resist and combat western hegemonies – or so the story goes.

As a practising (though flawed) Shia Muslim, I watch the new puritans with apprehension. So too other Muslims worldwide, the silent many, watch and tremble. From the eighth to the early 20th century, Muslims strove for a broad education (as commanded in the Qur’an), questioned doctrines, and were passionate about scientific advancements, political and social ideals and art. Not even humiliating colonial rule deterred them from the march forward. Now the marchers are walking backwards. The hijab, jilbab, burqa and niqab are visible signs of this retreat from progressive values.

Related: The hijab has liberated me from society's expectations of women | Nadiya Takolia

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times

Little girls are being asked to don hijabs and jilbabs, turned into sexual beings long before puberty

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The Riddle of Life by Dr. Ragheb El-Sergani

Muslim Matters - 20 March, 2015 - 11:33

I have pondered a great deal over the rise of nations, and this lead me to notice something truly marvelous – namely that the preparatory phase would always take a very long time, sometimes decades, while the phase of establishment is short and would sometimes hardly exceed a few years! For instance, the Muslims exerted tremendous effort, for a duration of over 80 years, in preparing an army to face the Crusaders in Palestine. Among these preparations were god-fearing scholars and distinguished commanders, perhaps the most famous of them being Imâduddin Zengi, Nooruddin Zengi, and Salahuddin al-Ayubi (may Allah bestow mercy upon them all). These Muslims were victorious in Hitteen, and then liberated Jerusalem and a large number of the occupied cities. By that, the Muslims had reached establishment and enjoyed a large unified nation-state. However – as astonishing as this may be – that establishment only continued for six years. Then, things fell apart with the death of Salahuddin, and the large nation fragmented between his sons and brothers. In fact, of them were those who surrendered Jerusalem, almost for free, to the Crusaders! I used to be amazed by this, until I realized the tradition, and understood the riddle… The actual purpose of our existence in this life is not being established in the earth and leading theworld, even though this is one of the aims a Muslim must strive to accomplish. But the actual purpose for our existence is the service of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). The Most High said, “And I have not created the jinn or human except to worship Me [alone].” [adh-Dhariyat: 56] And since we are closer to correctly worshipping Allah during the times of problems and adversity, and during the ages of trials and difficulty, much more than during the times of victory and establishment – it was from the mercy of Allah with us that He extends the periods of trials and tribulations upon us. This way, we remain close to Him and are ultimately saved. Conversely, whenever we are established in theearth, we forget about worship, presume that we are inherently capable of doing things, become distracted with the glitter of this world, and fall prey to other similar diseases of establishment. The Most High said, It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are in ships and they sail with them by a good wind and they rejoice therein, there comes a storm wind and the waves come upon them from everywhere and they assume that they are surrounded, supplicating Allah, sincere to Him in religion, 'If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful.' But when He saves them, at once they commit injustice upon the earth without right. O mankind, your injustice is only against yourselves, [being merely] the enjoyment of worldly life. Then to Us is your return, and We will inform you of what you used to do. [Yoonus: 22-23] Every sensible person knows that this worship is not just praying and fasting. Rather, it is actually a way of life. This worship embodies being genuinely devoted to Allah, sincerely intending Him, properly relying on Him, acknowledging your poverty before Him, loving to serve Him, being afraid to become distant from Him, strongly hoping in Him, and always fearing Him. This worship manifests in being where Allah orders you to be, living as Allah wishes you to live, loving for Allah, hating for Allah, upholding certain relationships for Allah, and severing others for Allah. It is a lofty spiritual state wherein this worldly life shrinks to being less than a drop in a river, more insignificant than the wing of a mosquito, and more worthless than the carcass of a maimed goat. How many people reached this incredible state during the age of establishment? Certainly, it was only the fewest of the few. How? Didn't our beloved (saws) frighten us from the surplusof wealth, and from abundant possessions, and from the opportunities of this world? Didn't he (saws) warn us by saying, By Allah, it isn't poverty that I fear for you. Rather, I fear that this world will be expanded for you like it was expanded for those before you – and then you compete in it as they competed in it, and [then] it destroys you as it destroyed them! Don't we sit together, eat together, think together… but when one of us reaches a seat of authority, or some position of rulership, he forgets the weak people that he once knew, and distances himself fromthe “laymen” who were once his brothers and loved ones? Didn't our beloved (saws) warn us from this common phenomenon by saying, Whomever Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, makes responsible for an affair of the Muslims, but he veils himself from their needs, complaints, and poverty – then Allah will veil Himself from his needs, complaints, and poverty. Does the poor, or the weak, or the homeless veil himself? No, only those established on the earth veilthemselves. The rich veil themselves, and the rulers veil themselves. Once these people attain their aims, most of them disconnect from the rest of the people. And whomever is like this, Allah veils Himself from them, and then on the Day of Resurrection, they will realize that – had they died before becoming established – it would have been safer and more prosperous. But for them, there will be no return to this world, for the window of acting has closed, and now it is time for judgment. The sick person spends most of his time near to Allah, and the healthy person defiantly challenges Allah using that health. The person faced with an ordeal, and the person locked in a prison, and the person who is exiled from his home, and the person who is oppressed by a tyrant, and the person who lived in the age ofsubjugation – all of these are near to Allah. And once their desires are attained, and the oppression is lifted from upon them, they forget Allah – except for those whom Allah has mercy on, and how few they are. Does that mean we should strive for weakness, poverty, disease, and death? Of course not. This is not the point, for we were ordered to amass strength, pursue affluence, seek medical treatment, and preserve human life. The point is to understand the purpose of life: servitude, and then servitude, and then servitude! From that angle, there remains no grounds for despair in the age of weakness, nor any room for losing hope when establishment is absent, nor any room for grief or depression when poverty, sickness, or pain befall us. In these situations – although Allah commanded us to pursue relief – we are more capable of servitude, more obedient to Allah, and more hopeful of Allah. And in their opposites, we are weaker in our servitude, and more distant from Allah. We don't seek the former, but we are “content” with it. We don't pursue these, but we are “patient” through them. The time which passes until we actualize this establishment is not lost time. Rather, it is the very opposite; it is our opportunity to understand the purpose of life, and it is the era wherein we truly and correctly worship Allah – for once we reach our aims, this purpose becomes blurry, and we begin worshipping Allah as “we want,” and not as “He wants.” In other words, you can say: that is when we begin worshipping Allah according to our desires. Or, to be even more precise, say: that is when we begin worshipping our desires! The Most High said, Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? [al-Furqan: 43] Due to all that, Allah – the Most Wise – who wishes for us to understand the objective of creation, andthe Most Merciful who wishes for us to prosper and succeed, chose to lengthen for us the phase ofpreparation, hardships, and difficulty, and chose to shorten for us the phase of establishment and strength. As for us, we have no choice but to accept this, rather to be pleased with His choice, for He only does this out of His love for us, and only set this tradition out of mercy for us. My brothers and sisters, reflect with me on the fluctuation of human history… How many years did Nuh (peace be upon him) live calling to Allah, enduring exhaustion patiently, and how many years did he live established after the flood? Where is the story of Hood, or Salih, or Shu'ayb (peace be upon them) after establishment?! We know nothing of their story except their peoples belying them, the adversity of the believers, and then a quick passing victory, and a conclusion that appears abrupt to us. Why did our Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) live for 21 years preparing for victory and establishment, and then didn't live to enjoy his establishment except for two years or a little more? Where is the establishment in the life of Musa and 'Eesa (peace be upon them)? Where is it in the life of Ibraheem, the father of the Prophets (peace be upon them)?! Indeed, these Prophetic examples are what will reoccur in the history of the earth, and these are the best of those who ever worshipped Allah (the Exalted), So from their guidance, take an example. [al-An'am: 90] Now, after you have understood the riddle, perhaps you can realize why 'Umar ibn 'Abdil-'Azeez lived only two and a half years after becoming established, and why Imaduddin Zengi was killed only two years after conquering ar-Raha (Edessa). Likewise, you now grasp why Qutuz was killed after less than a year from his epic victory against the Mongols in 'Ayn Jaloot. Likewise, you now understand why Alp Arsalan was killed after less than two years from his historical victory at Manzikert. Now you know why Salahuddin didn't “enjoy” the fruit of his victory at Hitteen except for less than a year, then Acre fell again in the hands of the Crusaders. Now you know why Abdallah ibn Yasin, the founder of the Murabit (Moravid) Dynasty, didn't see establishment to begin with, and why Abu Ya'qoob Yoosuf al-Mansoor –the best man of the Muwahhid (Mohad) Caliphate – died after less than four years from his spectacular victory in the Battle of Arak. These incidents are innumerable, and all allude to the fact that Allah wished for these “worshippers” to seal their lives while atop their loftiest states of servitude, before their worship gets polluted with this worldly life, and before they are afflicted with the diseases of establishment. They used to “worship” Allah genuinely during the age of preparation and difficulty, so our Lord “rewarded” them by removing them from this world before they were tempted by its glitter. Someone always asks, “But did history ever witness a righteous king that lived for long without being tempted?” I say to you, yes, there are those who experienced this in their lives, but they are so few I can almost count them due to how rare they are! For instance, we don't find this amidst the Prophets except with Dawud and Sulayman (peace be upon them). As for Yoosuf (peace be upon him) his story is tragic and heart-wrenching from its beginning until shortly before its end, and we hardly know anything about his post-establishment days. As for the leaders, kings, and generals, you may not find more than a handful that don't exceed the fingers of your two hands – such as Harun ar-Rashid, 'Abdur-Rahman an-Nasir, Malik-Shah, and a few with them. Therefore, this exception does not break our principle. Furthermore, Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – mentioned this in His Book by saying, And indeed, many associates oppress one another, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds – and few are they. [Sad: 24] Hence, those who patiently endure these trials are few by the very declaration of the Qur'an. In fact, when Allah – the Exalted – wishes to destroy one of the nations, He increases its establishment! The Most High said, So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair. [al-An'am: 44] After I understood this purpose, it caused me to realize the correct interpretation to many astonishing events in history. I understood why 'Utbah ibn Ghazwan begged 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with them) to pardon him from the governance of Basrah! I understood why Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq (may Allah be pleased with him) spent all his wealth for the sake of Allah. I understood why 'Uthman ibn 'Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) prepared the army of al-'Usrah by himself, without asking the others to help carry their share of the responsibility. I understood why Khalid ibn al-Waleed (may Allah be pleased with him) stepped down from the leadership of a victorious army. I understood why Abu 'Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah did not enjoy his rulership over an enormous province like Sham. I understood why Talha ibn 'Ubaydillah became sad when 700,000 dirham were brought to him in a single night. I understood why his sadness transformed into joy when he “rid himself” of this worldly gain by distributing it among the poor on the same night! I understood all of this now. Rather, I understood why the generation of the Companions was the bestof humanity. This was not just because they lived with the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Rather, it was because they best understood the purpose of life. Or, we can say: they were those who best worshipped Allah, the Exalted and Majestic. This is why they were so keen to avoid this material world, its wealth, leadership, and authority. For this same reason, you don't find misery in their lives when they become sick, nor depression when they are tortured, nor despair when they are oppressed, nor regret when they become poor. To them, these were all “opportunities to worship” that were eased their way, so they took advantage of them, and by that, they became the best people ever. The person who understands matters as they did becomes as cheerful as they were, even if they live inthe age of weakness! And the person who misses the point which they were privy to is miserable and lost, even if he owns this entire world. I direct this article to those who consider themselves “victims of misfortune” for being deprived ofwealth, or authority, or security, or health, or a loved one. I say to you all: Rejoice, for Allah has granted you an “opportunity to worship,” so take advantage of it before the tribulation is uplifted, and before relief arrives, and before you forget Allah, and how could you forget Him… The Most High said, And when affliction touches man, he calls upon Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove from him his affliction, he continues [in disobedience] as if he had never called upon Us to [remove] an affliction that touched him. Thus is made pleasing to thetransgressors that which they have been doing. [Yoonus: 12] We ask Allah grant us insight regarding His traditions, and we ask Allah to empower Islam and the Muslims. ameen.

The post The Riddle of Life by Dr. Ragheb El-Sergani appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Friday Links

Muslimah Media Watch - 20 March, 2015 - 10:00
  “Poetic Pilgrimage isn’t just a rap group — it’s a statement about Islam, women and what it means to belong,” writes Antonia Blumberg for The Huffington Post, in her article titled “Poetic Pilgrimage Is The Muslim Women’s Rap Duo The World Needs Right Now.” Canadian Conservative backbencher Larry Miller has apologized for saying Muslim [Read More...]

The Intercept: “What’s Scarier: Terrorism, or Governments Blocking Websites in its Name?”

Loon Watch - 19 March, 2015 - 21:03

Imagining being in France, visiting a site like Loonwatch or Al-Kanz and watching this pop up.:

french-censorship-article-display-b

That is the sign of the French state preventing access to websites it has deemed forbidden, under the pretext of stopping “terrorism” when in fact such state sanctioned policies can also easily criminalize ideas. These policies are proliferating all over Europe and other Western nations.

One wonders where are all the supporters free speech?

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

The French Interior Ministry on Monday ordered that five websites be blocked on the grounds that they promote or advocate terrorism. “I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet,” proclaimed Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

(David Thompson)

When the block functions properly, visitors to those banned sites, rather than accessing the content of the sites they chose to visit, will be automatically redirected to the Interior Ministry website. There, they will be greeted by a graphic of a large red hand, and text informing them that they were attempting to access a site that causes or promotes terrorism: “you are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.”

No judge reviews the Interior Ministry’s decisions. The minister first requests that the website owner voluntarily remove the content he deems transgressive; upon disobedience, the minister unilaterally issues the order to Internet service providers for the sites to be blocked. This censorship power is vested pursuant to a law recently enacted in France empowering the interior minister to block websites.

Forcibly taking down websites deemed to be supportive of terrorism, or criminalizing speech deemed to “advocate” terrorism, is a major trend in both Europe and the West generally. Last month in Brussels, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator issued a memo proclaiming that “Europe is facing an unprecedented, diverse and serious terrorist threat,” and argued that increased state control over the Internet is crucial to combating it.

The memo noted that “the EU and its Member States have developed several initiatives related to countering radicalisation and terrorism on the Internet,” yet argued that more must be done. It argued that the focus should be on “working with the main players in the Internet industry [a]s the best way to limit the circulation of terrorist material online.” It specifically hailed the tactics of the U.K. Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), which has succeeded in causing the removal of large amounts of material it deems “extremist”:

In addition to recommending the dissemination of “counter-narratives” by governments, the memo also urged EU member states to “examine the legal and technical possibilities to remove illegal content.”

Exploiting terrorism fears to control speech has been a common practice in the West since 9/11, but it is becoming increasingly popular even in countries that have experienced exceedingly few attacks. A new extremist bill advocated by the right-wing Harper government in Canada (also supported by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau even as he recognizes its dangers) would create new crimes for “advocating terrorism”; specifically: “every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general” would be a guilty and can be sent to prison for five years for each offense.

In justifying the new proposal, the Canadian government admits that “under the current criminal law, it is [already] a crime to counsel or actively encourage others to commit a specific terrorism offence.” This new proposal is about criminalizing ideas and opinions. In the government’s words, it “prohibits the intentional advocacy or promotion of terrorism, knowing or reckless as to whether it would result in terrorism.”

There can be no doubt that such new criminal laws are specifically intended to ban ideas these governments dislike. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives lays out numerous ways that the law will allow the government to imprison people for the expression of political ideas:

The new offence will bring within its ambit all kinds of innocent speech, some of which no doubt lies at the core of freedom of expression values that the Charter was meant to protect. . . .Even if the government exercises restraint in laying charges and arresting people, the result is an inevitable chill on speech. Students will think twice before posting an article on Facebook questioning military action against insurgents overseas. Journalists will be wary of questioning government decisions to add groups to Canada’s list of terrorist entities.

If someone argues that continuous Western violence and interference in the Muslim world for decades justifies violence being returned to the West, or even advocates that governments arm various insurgents considered by some to be “terrorists,” such speech could easily be viewed as constituting a crime.

To calm concerns, Canadian authorities point out that “the proposed new offence is similar to one recently enacted by Australia, that prohibits advocating a terrorist act or the commission of a terrorism offence-all while being reckless as to whether another person will engage in this kind of activity.” Indeed, Australia enacted a new law late last year that indisputably targets political speech and ideas, as well as criminalizing journalism considered threatening by the government.

Punishing people for their speech deemed extremist or dangerous has been a vibrant practice in both the U.K. and U.S. for some time now, as I detailed (coincidentally) just a couple days before free speech marches broke out in the West after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Those criminalization-of-speech attacks overwhelmingly target Muslims, and have resulted in the punishment of such classic free speech activities as posting anti-war commentary on Facebook, tweeting links to “extremist” videos, translating and posting “radicalizing” videos to the Internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package.

In this regard, having the French Interior Ministry now unilaterally block websites is the next logical step in this growing attack on free speech by Western governments in the name of stopping extremism and radicalism. The large red hand of state censors over the Internet is a perfect symbol of the prevailing mindset in the West, whose fondness for self-righteously condemning China and Iran for their attempts to control Internet content is bottomless. The ironic mass arrests by France of people who “glorify” terrorism — carried out in the immediate aftermath of the Paris “free speech” rally — largely targeted that country’s Muslims.

Read the entire article…

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