Philadelphia transit authority ordered to run pro-Israel group's Hitler ad

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 March, 2015 - 21:02

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will consider an appeal on free-speech ruling of ad which they claim violates ‘minimal civility standards’

Philadelphia’s transit system has been ordered to accept provocative ads that include a 1941 photograph of Adolf Hitler with a former Arab leader after a federal judge ruled in favour of a pro-Israel group’s free-speech lawsuit.

The proposed bus ads carry a tagline saying: “Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran”.

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AlJazeera: Islamophobia Sells In Canada

Loon Watch - 12 March, 2015 - 19:17

Canada_Islamophobia Islamophobia sells in Canada

Stephen Harper’s re-election campaign is built on demonizing Muslims

March 2, 2015 2:00AM ET by Davide Mastracci 

Canadians will vote in the country’s 42nd general election on Oct. 19. In the lead-up to the vote, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made several calculated decisions to capitalize on popular Islamophobic sentiments to secure another victory for the Conservative Party.

Harper has latched onto international events to marginalize Muslims for voters. For example, on Jan. 8, Harper responded to the attacks in Paris on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, by claiming that an “international jihadist movement has declared war.” He then pledged to propose a new anti-terrorism legislation once the parliament resumes regular session in late January.

His bill, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 or Bill C-51, will transform Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), from an information gathering service to one that proactively attempts to thwart terrorist plots in Canada and abroad. The act will also lower the threshold for monitoring suspected national security threats, including adding a vaguely defined category called terrorist “sympathizers.”

The bill passed in the House of Commons on Feb. 23 and is now being sent to Committee. In an open letter to Harper, several civil liberty organizations, former CSIS employees and former Canadian prime ministers have expressed concern about the lack of oversight and effective review mechanisms for the law. If Canada’s past anti-terror legislations are any guide, Muslim communities will likely see increased surveillance and profiling under Bill C-51. Previous counterterrorism laws have resulted in the infringement of Muslims’ civil liberties through arbitrary detention and inclusion in no-fly lists, as well as secret surveillance. Harper is not even pretending Bill C-51 will be any different.

“Our Government has never hesitated to call jihadi terrorism what it is,” he said of terrorist groups, introducing the bill.“And just as we are not afraid to condemn it, we are not afraid to confront it.” Asked how security forces will distinguish between radicalized individuals and teenagers “messing around in the basement,” Harper said, “it doesn’t matter what the age of the person is, or whether they’re in a basement, or whether they’re in a mosque or somewhere else.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association (CMLA) have demanded an apology. “The Prime Minister’s comments … implicated Canadian mosques as venues where terrorism is advocated or promoted,” the group said in a statement. “The words used by our elected leaders have a profound impact on public perceptions.” Harper’s response gives unwarranted credence to a common misconception. There is overwhelming evidence, including a 2011 CSIS report, showing the lack of connection between mosques and individuals suspected of terrorism.

However, since the October 22 shooting in Ottawa, several mosques across the country have been targeted by violent Islamophobes. Harper’s statements and failure to condemn the string of vandalism against mosques in Canada have perpetuated this dangerous conflation.

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Salmaan Taseer murder case harks back to 1929 killing of Hindu publisher

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 March, 2015 - 15:23

Many Pakistanis argue Mumtaz Qadri should be regarded as a national hero like Ilm-Deen, who knifed the publisher of a commentary on the life of prophet Muhammad

Mudassir Khan visits the tomb of Ghazi Shaheed Ilm-Deen every day to add to the heap of flower petals on top of his grave and sing a tearful prayer to the illiterate carpenter’s apprentice who killed to protect the honour of his faith.

Like hundreds of others who come daily to the gaudily decorated enclosure in the middle of Lahore’s main graveyard, the restaurant owner reveres the 20-year-old executed for his crime more than 85 years ago.

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Farage’s Muslim ‘fifth column’ remarks must not go unchallenged | Harun Khan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 March, 2015 - 15:20
Ironically the Ukip leader, like the Muslim extremists he castigates, is dividing Britons from each other, by virtue of faith and identity

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, has spent much of the day complaining that his comments on race for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary have been misrepresented. He insists he is not a racist and that his party is colour blind.

While Farage’s comments on race are rightly being challenged by our political leaders, there seems to be less of an outcry over remarks that Muslims represent a “fifth column” in this country. He has said there is “an increasing level of concern because people do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us”.

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Muslims, Muggles, and Musallahs

Muslim Matters - 12 March, 2015 - 04:49

This was originally posted on


It was always dark by the time I finished the journey there from an hour away. But I didn't mind — the smooth nighttime drive was always a sort of therapy that I came to look forward to.

Like many in my generation, I had graduated college and held a few cool temp jobs here and there, but I would eventually find myself back at home with my parents, and with few friends around. I was one of those brave (or maybe stupid?) few Muslim kids that majored in the social sciences (international relations, specifically). At the time, I was working a petty hourly job at a local outlet mall for pocket money. I had just taken the GREs and was waiting for the fall to start, when I would begin graduate school. But a few nights a week, I'd get a chance to venture out of the home and my pajamas. I'd freshen up, put on a cool hat, grab my tasbih, and throw on some sort of loose clothing — sometimes shalwar kameez, other times I opted for the overpriced hooded galabayya I had bought at ISNA that one year — and if I was feeling especially giddy, I'd put on some 'itr. Coming from a relatively small town in Wisconsin and having been very active in MSA in my undergrad, I was just happy to see other Muslims my age.

This might seem egregious or ostentatious to many of you, but I truly was excited. There was an Islamic learning institute an hour or so away, and I would make that journey several nights a week to just to sit in a class with ashaykh and a few other students and learn fiqh, adab, and minute points of Arabic grammar for 3 hours. The building was not too fancy, the only priceless things around being the books on the shelves. But I enjoyed every minute of it, alhamdulillah. Nowadays, amid my nonstop grad school workload, I remember fondly those slower days, with the rejuvenating suhbaof classmates, the words of great mashayikh of the past on the pages, the teacher demanding we recite to him the ahadith we were to memorize for that week (even though I'd always manage to mess them up). I even miss that annoying florescent light that hung over us.

One of the many lessons I took from that year was one line the shaykh said one night, almost in passing. We were going through Tuḥfatul Mulūk (“A Gift for Kings”), an old Hanafi fiqh text which covers the basics of Islam in a very condensed form, one that even extremely busy people could understand and begin to apply (such as the rulers for whom it was written). The book, like most in the genre, begins with purification, moving on tosalah and the other pillars of the deen. We were on the section that talks about the daily prayers, when the shaykh suddenly paused, looked up at us, and said something along the lines of,

“One thing you will notice about all the arkān (pillars) is that they are meant to be publicly displayed or otherwise known among the believers. The shahada must be witnessed; the fard salah ought to be performed in congregation if possible; zakat must be collected from all those of whom it is required and given to those to who are eligible for it; Ramadan is a month where the believers abstain from food while going about their lives as they otherwise would in front of everyone; the hajj is done very publicly with millions of others at the same time. In essence, the collective performance of the pillars of Islam is what gives shape to the Muslim community. It is what truly marks the establishment of Islam in a given area amongst a certain population of Muslims.”

I remember that hitting me like a ton of bricks, but I didn't truly understand why at the time.

Fast forward a year or so later, and I'm now in grad school. I'm walking out of a late class, when I realize maghrib had come in and that I had to pray now, or else I won't have a chance to later.

I repeated a ritual familiar to many. Did I have wudu'? Yeah, I had wudu'. I then quickly scanned my surroundings for a suitable location. I saw an entrance to empty stairwell on the same floor I was on, one that was hardly used as the elevator was right there. I closed my eyes, and pushed the door open to my temporary Platform 9 3/4.

How I feel every time I find a good place to pray.

Having done the deed, I began walking home. Like my nightly drives to class a year earlier, these walks were beloved to me, especially nowadays when the only sound was the crunching of boots against the silence that only a snowy winter night can bring. I thought about the prayer I just performed. It was, above all, like any prayer done in near-public, very rushed. I was always paranoid that someone might come in and wonder what in the hell I was doing.

A friend once told me a story about a tabi'i, 'Urwah bin al-Zubair (رضي الله عنه), and how he was told by doctors that gangrene had spread in his leg, and that it had to be amputated. He stoically accepted his fate, but had one request: that before the amputation take place, he be allowed to enter intosalah. The doctors acquiesced to this curious request, and proceeded to amputate the limb without so much as a peep or quiver from 'Urwah. He was so engrossed in his prayer that the outside world had effectively ceased to exist for him, ma sha' Allah.

He was so engrossed in his prayer that the outside world had effectively ceased to exist for him.

I am not nearly that cool.

Just the other day, I was praying maghrib in a hallway, and someone stopped, watched, and waited until I was done. Excruciating does not even begin to describe it. He looked at me with the utmost concern, and then asked, “Are you ok?” Now, I could act super macho and tell you that I was totally unbothered by the incident, that my khushu' was not affected in the slightest. But I'd be lying through my teeth. It was difficult for me to focus on Allah (جل جلاله) when I knew someone was staring at me in the same way one might stare upon noticing a zebra had taken up residence in his or her building.

Just the other day, I was praying maghrib in a hallway, and someone stopped, watched, and waited until I was done. Excruciating does not even begin to describe it. He looked at me with the utmost concern, and then asked, “Are you ok?”

I like praying. I like the required five minute timeout five times a day to reconnect with what matters. But it starts to feel like more of a blessing and more of a burden when you're forced to pray in stairwells or dressing rooms or parking lots.

I remembered the shaykh's advice from a year earlier, how the prayer is fundamental to the establishment of authentic Muslim life. I thought to myself: wouldn't it be so great if there were prayer rooms, or musallahs, conveniently located everywhere? A place where salah was not just understood, but encouraged? It's hard and expensive to build masjids everywhere, I get that. But why couldn't we work together to ensure thatmusallahs were there for Muslims when they needed it?

I didn't need Platform 9 3/4, I needed Mr. Potter's Room of Requirement.

Definitely not a coincidence that the Room of Requirement looks like a masjid.

Then, on that walk home, a thought hit me: we all have smartphones these days, so why couldn't we use them to crowdsource musallahs for Muslims everywhere? Muslims own businesses and property all over the place, and even where they don't, I am sure that there are many places with non-Muslim landlords, such as churches and synagogues or museums or high schools, would be nice enough to put out a rug or two for any Muslims who might be passing by. Heck, it might even bring in more foot traffic then there otherwise might have been.

That was last year, and the idea has been stuck in my head the whole time. It just wouldn't leave me. I began to work on the idea in my spare time, as a side project. I started taking courses, researching the tech industry, and frequenting startup circles here in New York City.

At the beginning of this month, with the help of my incredible wife, we began raising initial funds for the initial version of the app, called Musallah, on Kickstarter. You can view more details as well as a fun video we made explaining what the app does at that page.

We've been raising funds since March 1st, and the response has been nothing short of incredible. We have had Muslims from all over the world reaching out to us offering their programming skills, their labor, their donations, their du'a. It's confirmed to us that Muslims want to give more importance to their prayers, but with our increasingly busy lives, it just gets difficult. We need a better solution, and Musallah will be that, God willing.

Here's an excerpt from a message we received the other day:

As-salamu alaykum brother Rashid and sister Nushmia,

I have been living in NYC for about 12 years and always found it difficult to perform daily prayers in regularly due to many circumstances. But alhamdulillah I live in a Muslim neighborhood and been blessed with easy access to mosque nearby. I work in the city Fridays and Sundays and it is always very difficult for me to find a place to pray. Most of the time I pray in my car.

His is not the only story like this we heard.

I, like many of us, want to live and succeed professionally in this life as well as the next, but that gets hard to manage unless we can truly devote ourself to the salah when it comes in. Car prayers just won't cut it. I want a world where I can give my prayers their full right. Musallah is our attempt to make inroads towards that.

If you like the idea, consider supporting us in any way you can, whether that means donating, tweeting, liking us on Facebook, or sharing the Kickstarter page with your networks. At the very least, keep us in your prayers, and may Allah accept all of our efforts to grow closer to Him.


Rashid Dar is studying Islam & Arabic traditionally and an aspiring geopolitical changemaker

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The Fallacy of Philosophical Logic & Reasoning An Insight into Ibn Taymiyya’s Radd ‘ala al-Mantiqiyyin

Muslim Matters - 12 March, 2015 - 04:12

The great British philosopher, logician and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) wrote in his autobiography (1950, p. 395):

When I survey my life, it seems to me to be a useless one, devoted to impossible ideals. My activities continue from force of habit, and in the company of others I forget the despair which underlies my daily pursuits and pleasure. But when I am alone and idle, I cannot conceal from myself that my life had no purpose, and that I know of no new purpose to which to devote my remaining years. I find myself involved in a vast mist of solitude both emotional and metaphysical, from which I can find no issue.

Russell's reflections are typical of those who trust in a particular style of reasoning as the means by which human beings can know and understand themselves and the world they live in. After a lifetime devoted to this style of reasoning, they become disappointed with reason altogether because it is unable to account for the most general, fundamental and most obvious of all realities: namely, that humans are intelligent and the world is intelligible to them, that the world seems to demand and reward human curiosity. Reason cannot account for the existence of reason. It is so, but reason cannot tell us why and how it is so.

Reason also cannot account for how and why we understand and respond to notions of value, like love, justice, truth, beauty, happiness, and their opposites. Notions like these form the basis of all the important practical judgements we make in life: who and what we like or dislike, what we strive for, our own behaviours and lifestyle and how we respond to others. We cannot define these values in any way that will apply to all situations or be agreed and accepted by all people. And yet in judging actual, particular situations we somehow know when these values are adequately expressed and when they are not.

All human beings understand these values and have words for them.  They also have the competence to express themselves generally: they have the competence to hold in their own minds and convey to other minds, their perceptions of the real world outside them, and the feelings prompted by those perceptions. More than that, they can think, remember and imagine many things that are not directly prompted by anything in the world outside their minds. All human beings have this ability to express themselves, spontaneously and uniquely, with or without a prompt from someone else or from the world outside the mind. This ability takes different forms in different environments: humans do not all speak the same language, but they do all speak.

Our competence to hold perceptions and impressions in the mind, within the system of signs that we call language, and to hold them independently of any condition in the world outside the mind, enables us to compare this and that, to see patterns, to make analogies, to make suppositions, to plot and plan. This is how we learn: we make mistakes in perceptions and judgements, then we work through the errors and improve our perceptions and judgements; our plans go wrong, and then we try to make better plans. Because we can store what we have learnt in our language, what we learn and how fast we learn gathers pace and volume. Again, it is a mystery on top of a mystery that we can keep doing this and yet never seem to run out of storage space: our minds and language systems are, for all practical purposes, unbounded. Human beings do not just collect the food given in the world like nuts and berries and cereals, and the flesh of hunted or reared animals, they combine flavours and textures and fragrances: they cook, and so enlarge their own appetite as well as their ability to survive in different environments. This applies in all domains of human activity.

Nevertheless, for all its curiosity, its linguistic and rational competence, the human mind cannot see the whole of itself in action. We cannot predict or control all the conditions that affect our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions; we cannot predict or control all the consequences of our actions, not even upon ourselves and those near us, let alone upon people far removed from us in place and time, not to speak of the earth's life-system as a whole. We can watch other people looking but we cannot, ourselves, see ourselves in the act of looking. That is how it is. We can know that we will die, but we cannot, so to speak, live through our own death. We can live through other people's death, never our own. It is at this boundary that we experience our deepest need to know and understand, and the reason and language that seemed to serve us so well here fail us. This is the boundary of the seen and the unseen.

The need to cross this boundary is the root of the religious impulse. If there were no input from the unseen, this impulse could not exist. But it does exist. We are flooded with feelings of uncertainty, about why we exist at all if we are to die, why we have feelings, motives and effects in the world that we cannot fully understand, why we are followed by our past though it is no longer there, why we are thrown towards our future in great rushes of hope and fear. If there were no input from the unseen these feelings would paralyse us. But there is input: it is this that we call religion. Of this there are numerous forms in the world. The believers say the only reliable form of religion is what has been conveyed by the Prophets, men informed by God from the unseen and informed about the unseen. Muslims are exceptionally fortunate in that what our Prophet informed us about is perfectly preserved in the Qur'an, and almost as reliably preserved in the record of his teaching and example, the Sunna.

Because religion informs us about what we have not directly perceived, and more importantly, because it begins in an act of affirmation — we must affirm the truthfulness of the Prophets and their teaching before we begin to live by that teaching and its truth becomes a certainty for us – there is a human tendency to resist religion, to rebel against the Prophets, to distract from their message. This can take the form of an outright denunciation of the Prophet's message as a fairy-tale or nonsense. But it can also take the form of an approval of the Prophet's message as a necessary comforting delusion for the masses, but still a delusion. This approval is expressed in two ways: either the delusion is corrected by re-stating the Prophet's message in the language of philosophical propositions which convey the message in abstract concepts, rigorously assembled as an argument. Or it can take the form of a thoroughly subversive alternative to the Prophet's message, which claims insight into the unseen just as the Prophet's message does, but is fundamentally contrary to the Prophet's message: so if the Prophet teaches that God is absolutely other than His creatures, the alternative teaches that God and His creatures are essentially one and the same; if the Prophet teaches that Pharaoh was a wicked tyrant who is punished in this life and in the hereafter, the alternative teaches that Pharaoh understood the reality that he and God are essentially the same, and so he, Pharaoh, is entirely forgiven.

These two ways of resisting the Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) message have in common the idea that this message is not expressed as it should be, that what it says in fact is not what it means; what it says is not how things really are. In short, both these ways believe that the revelation does not establish the truth, rather it establishes the rules and norms of a civic religion, a way useful to the elites for keeping the masses in order. The truth is something else, known to the philosophers, or known to the ittihadi Sufi Shuyukh. These two ways have something else in common, namely the legacy of Greek philosophy, albeit the falasifa and the mutakallimun depend more heavily upon Aristotle, and the ittihadi Sufis depend more heavily upon Plato. Ibn Taymiyyah's Radd 'ala l-mantiqiyyin is a reasoned polemic against both, and one of the most vigorous defences of realist thinking ever written. Needless to say, he defends realist thinking, not for its own sake, but for the sake of defending Islam as a belief and as a way of life.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (661-728/1263-1328) was a great Muslim thinker of Damascus. Besides his excellence in the traditional Islamic sciences, he was a great expert in logic, philosophy, theology and linguistics. He admits that had there been no Prophets, the philosophers would have been the best people on the face of the earth. He appreciates that philosophers raise and think about the right questions. But they do not have the right tools to get the answers that will benefit them or humankind. This is a point that he has elaborated in most of his major works, like Dar' al-ta`arud bayna al-`aql wa-l-naql, al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin and many of the essays and articles collected in Majmu` al-Fatawa.

In al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin, he discusses in detail the methodological problems of philosophical logic, which is praised by the philosophers as the criterion or measure of right thinking, i.e., it has the same importance for reasoning as grammar has for language. His argument is that a methodology which can work within the domain of any narrowly defined discipline cannot necessarily work in other domains, and certainly does not hold for human reasoning as whole. His criticism against Greek logic is not that it cannot work in a limited disciplinary context, but that it should not be applied as a sort of test to every science and every effort of reasoning. (The philosophers and theologians explicitly deployed it in the discourse on metaphysical and theological questions, and in the argumentation used in jurisprudence and Arabic grammar.)

In the Radd Ibn Taymiyyah focuses on four claims of the logicians:

(1) that tasawwur (conceptualisation) cannot be attained except through hadd (a particular style of definition);

(2)that  tasdiq (affirmation, judgement) cannot be established except after qiyas al-shumul (syllogism; a particular style of reasoned demonstration);

3) that the hadd leads to reliable tasawwur;

and (4) that the qiyas leads to certain or near-certain tasdiq. Ibn Taymiyyah demonstrates the errors of the logicians in all four points in their theoretical discussions and practical application.

[For a detailed discussion of this subject please refer to the online seminar by Dr Muhammad Akram Nadwi on al-Radd `ala al-mantiqiyyin (Refutation of Greek Logicians) of Ibn Taymiyyah as part of the Introduction to Classical Islamic Texts Series at Cambridge Islamic College –]

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Deradicalisation is everyone’s business | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 March, 2015 - 19:41

The Prevent [counter-radicalisation] programme is supported by the police but not police-led (‘Intrusive’ programmes are to become more widespread, 10 March). It places a responsibility on all public agencies to work with local people and community groups to try to prevent people being drawn into violent extremism; whether Islamic or rightwing. Like similar programmes to prevent people getting involved in drugs, gangs or criminality, it will have successes and failures. Some will believe the counter-narrative, others will not.

Prevent faces particular challenges because many Muslims feel their religion is unfairly portrayed in the media and have had serious misgivings about British foreign policy. Nevertheless surveys show that they have a higher level of confidence in policing than the rest of the population.

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Rabah Kherbane: We Would Rather Believe Jihadi John Was Always Evil

Loon Watch - 11 March, 2015 - 18:04


By Rabah Kherbane, Huffington Post

By its very composition, the term “radicalised” accepts a past tense. A past where such a person was not radical, where he or she was normal.

Despite this, all hell broke loose when Asim Qureishi, a director with UK prisoners’ rights group CAGE, said “the Mohammed Emwazi that I knew [based on correspondence between 2009 and January 2012] was extremely kind, extremely gentle… the most humble young person that I knew.”

Admittedly, it was a PR failure by CAGE. They should have picked their words more carefully on such a sensitive issue. Their naivety has cost them dearly. But that was their only crime, being naive.

The general public reacted with disgust. Instead of front-page headlines on the newfound identity of Jihadi John, many outlets focused on some variation of “Important human rights group or apologists for terror?” In reality, CAGE’s role merely sought to highlight the potential reasons behind Emwazi’s radicalisation. They discerned security service treatment as a possible factor, among many.

However, this goes against the perpetual narrative that terrorists are evil “because they are evil”. The masses would rather perceive a dichotomy between Isis and the West which makes one inherently evil, just because they are. And the other morally superior, because they are. Cause and effect become irrelevant. Past and present are blurred into oblivion.

We would rather believe Jihadi John was always evil. He always wanted to behead people. Bomb others. Burn innocents. To argue otherwise is to be an apologist for terrorism, it makes you “part of the problem”. And thus the parameters of discussion are severely constrained; a large chunk of freedom of expression is eroded by baseless stigma.

Yet Owen Jones, on last week’s Comment is Free, indicated an interesting analogy. He said: “Is examining the role of, say, Versailles and economic crisis in the rise of Nazism making excuses for it? If we provide such context for the most barbarous ideology in human history, why not elsewhere?”

The same way, exploring root causes and any possible factors which could acclimate the occurrence of “radicalisation” is not necessarily an exercise in vindication.

If we do not agree with CAGE’s deduction, we should constructively criticise their approach after reading all of the evidence involved. It does no one any favours to lampoon abuse while offering nothing to the discussion at hand.

It is also worth noting that at no point does this absolve the individual perpetrator of any crimes. As Peter Oborne wrote, in a blog about CAGE on the Telegraph last year, “Indeed one of the most important tests of a robust legal system is the way it defends unpopular minorities.”

The same way, one of the most important tests for any government or people, is how we can tackle emotionally charged issues in a rational way which contributes to the overarching discourse. In a way which helps everyone involved, rather than serving to feed and propagate the most simple-minded and impulsive of reactions.

Mehdi Hasan: How Islamic is Islamic State?

Loon Watch - 11 March, 2015 - 17:53


A must read article. Mehdi Hasan touches upon key points in the ongoing discussion over the Atlantic article that argued ISIS was “very Islamic.”

By Mehdi Hasan, The New Statesman

It is difficult to forget the names, or the images, of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig. The barbaric beheadings between August and November 2014, in cold blood and on camera, of these five jumpsuit-clad western hostages by the self-styled Islamic State, or Isis, provoked widespread outrage and condemnation.

However, we should also remember the name of Didier François, a French journalist who was held by Isis in Syria for ten months before being released in April 2014. François has since given us a rare insight into life inside what the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood, in a recent report for the magazine, has called the “hermit kingdom” of Isis, where “few have gone . . . and returned”. And it is an insight that threatens to turn the conventional wisdom about the world’s most fearsome terrorist organisation on its head.

“There was never really discussion about texts,” the French journalist told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last month, referring to his captors. “It was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.”

According to François, “It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” And the former hostage revealed to a startled Amanpour: “We didn’t even have the Quran. They didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”

The rise of Isis in Iraq and Syria has been a disaster for the public image of Islam – and a boon for the Islamophobia industry. Here, after all, is a group that calls itself Islamic State; that claims the support of Islamic texts to justify its medieval punishments, from the stoning of adulterers to the amputation of the hands of thieves; and that has a leader with a PhD in Islamic studies who declares himself to be a “caliph”, or ruler over all Muslims, and has even renamed himself in honour of the first Muslim caliph, Abu Bakr.

The consequences are, perhaps, as expected. In September 2014, a Zogby poll found that only 27 per cent of Americans had a favourable view of Islam – down from 35 per cent in 2010. By February 2015, more than a quarter of Americans (27 per cent) were telling the pollsters LifeWay Research that they believed that life under Isis rule “gives a true indication of what an Islamic society looks like”.

Yet what is much more worrying is that it isn’t just ill-informed, ignorant or bigoted members of the public who take such a view. “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic,” wrote Wood in his widely read 10,000-word cover report (“What Isis really wants”) in the March issue of Atlantic, in which he argued, “The religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”

Bernard Haykel of Princeton University, the only scholar of Islam whom Wood bothered to interview, described Muslims who considered Isis to be un-Islamic, or anti-Islamic, as “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion”, and declared that the hand-choppers and throat-slitters of Isis “have just as much legitimacy” as any other Muslims, because Islam is “what Muslims do and how they interpret their texts”.

Many other analysts across the political spectrum agree and have denounced the Obama administration for refusing, in the words of the journalist-turned-terrorism-expert Peter Bergen, to make “the connection between Islamist terrorism and ultra-fundamentalist forms of Islam”. Writing on the CNN website in February, Bergen declared, “Isis may be a perversion of Islam, but Islamic it is.”

“Will it take the end of the world for Obama to recognise Isis as ‘Islamic’?” screamed a headline on the Daily Beast website in the same month. “Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behaviour and that certain religious ideas – jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy – reliably lead to oppression and murder?” asked Sam Harris, the neuroscientist and high priest of the “New Atheism” movement.

So, is Isis a recognisably “Islamic” movement? Are Isis recruits motivated by religious fervour and faith?

The Analyst

“Our exploration of the intuitive psychologist’s shortcomings must start with his general tendency to overestimate the importance of personal or dispositional factors relative to environmental influences,” wrote the American social anthropologist Lee Ross in 1977.

It was Ross who coined the phrase “fundamental attribution error”, which refers to the phenomenon in which we place excessive emphasis on internal motivations to explain the behaviour of others, in any given situation, rather than considering the relevant external factors.

Nowhere is the fundamental attribution error more prevalent, suggests the forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman, than in our navel-gazing analysis of wannabe terrorists and what does or doesn’t motivate them. “You attribute other people’s behaviour to internal motivations but your own to circumstances. ‘They’re attacking us and therefore we have to attack them.’” Yet, he tells me, we rarely do the reverse.

Few experts have done more to try to understand the mindset of the young men and women who aspire to join the blood-drenched ranks of groups such as Isis and al-Qaeda than Sageman. And few can match his qualifications, credentials or background. The 61-year-old, Polish-born psychiatrist and academic is a former CIA operations officer who was based in Pakistan in the late 1980s. There he worked closely with the Afghan mujahedin. He has since advised the New York City Police Department on counterterrorism issues, testified in front of the 9/11 Commission in Washington, DC, and, in his acclaimed works Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad, closely analysed the biographies of several hundred terrorists.

Does he see religion as a useful analytical prism through which to view the rise of Isis and the process by which thousands of young people arrive in Syria and Iraq, ready to fight and die for the group?

“Religion has a role but it is a role of justification,” he tells me. “It’s not why they do this [or] why young people go there.”

Isis members, he says, are using religion to advance a political vision, rather than using politics to advance a religious vision. “To give themselves a bit more legitimacy, they use Islam as their justification. It’s not about religion, it’s about identity . . . You identify with the victims, [with] the guys being killed by your enemies.”

For converts to Islam in particular, he adds, “Identity is important to them. They have . . . invested a lot of their own efforts and identity to become this ‘Muslim’ and, because of this, identity is so important to them. They see other Muslims being slaughtered [and say], ‘I need to protect my community.’” (A recent study found that converts to Islam were involved in 31 per cent of Muslim terrorism convictions in the UK between 2001 and 2010.)

Sageman believes that it isn’t religious faith but, rather, a “sense of emotional and moral outrage” at what they see on their television screens or on YouTube that propels people from Portsmouth to Peshawar, from Berlin to Beirut, to head for war zones and to sign up for the so-called jihad. Today, he notes archly, “Orwell would be [considered as foreign fighter like] a jihadi,” referring to the writer’s involvement in the anti-fascist campaign during the Spanish civil war.

Religion, according to this view, plays a role not as a driver of behaviour but as a vehicle for outrage and, crucially, a marker of identity. Religion is important in the sense that it happens to “define your identity”, Sageman says, and not because you are “more pious than anybody else”. He invokes the political scientist Benedict Anderson’s conception of a nation state as an “imagined political community”, arguing that the “imagined community of Muslims” is what drives the terrorists, the allure of being members of – and defenders of – the ultimate “in-group”.

“You don’t have the most religious folks going there,” he points out. Isis fighters from the west, in particular, “tend to have rediscovered Islam as teenagers, or as converts”; they are angry, or even bored, young men in search of a call to arms and a thrilling cause. The Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” – who was raised and educated in the UK – was described, for instance, by two British medics who met him at a Syrian hospital as “quiet but a bit of an adrenalin junkie”.

Sageman’s viewpoint should not really surprise us. Writing in his 2011 book The Black Banners: the Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, the Lebanese-American former FBI agent Ali H Soufan, who led the bureau’s pre-9/11 investigation into al-Qaeda, observed: “When I first began interrogating al-Qaeda members, I found that while they could quote Bin Laden’s sayings by heart, I knew far more of the Quran than they did – and in fact some barely knew classical Arabic, the language of both the hadith and the Quran. An understanding of their thought process and the limits of their knowledge enabled me and my colleagues to use their claimed piousness against them.”

Three years earlier, in 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit, was obtained by the Guardian. It revealed: “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 MI5 analysts noted the disproportionate number of converts and the high propensity for “drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes”. The newspaper claimed they concluded, “A well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”

As I have pointed out on these pages before, Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, the two young British Muslim men from Birmingham who were convicted on terrorism charges in 2014 after travelling to fight in Syria, bought copies of Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies from Amazon prior to their departure. Religious novices, indeed.

Sageman, the former CIA officer, says we have to locate terrorism and extremism in local conflicts rather than in grand or sweeping ideological narratives – the grievances and the anger come first, he argues, followed by the convenient and self-serving ideological justifications. For example, he says, the origins of Isis as a terror group lie not in this or that Islamic book or school of thought, but in the “slaughter of Sunnis in Iraq”. He reminds me how, in April 2013, when there was a peaceful Sunni demonstration asking the Shia-led Maliki government in Baghdad to reapportion to the various provinces what the government was getting in oil revenues, Iraqi security forces shot into the crowds. “That was the start of this [current] insurrection.”

Before that, it was the brutal, US-led occupation, under which Iraq became ground zero for suicide bombers from across the region and spurred the creation of new terrorist organisations, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Isis is the “remnant” of AQI, Sageman adds. He believes that any analysis of the group and of the ongoing violence and chaos in Iraq that doesn’t take into account the long period of war, torture, occupation and sectarian cleansing is inadequate – and a convenient way of exonerating the west
of any responsibility. “Without the invasion of Iraq, [Isis] would not exist. We created it by our presence there.”

Read the entire article…

British Muslims condemn terror laws for creating 'witch-hunt' against Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 March, 2015 - 15:29

Strongly worded public statement, which includes signatories from Cage and Hizb ut-Tahrir, condemns ‘crude and divisive’ government election tactics

Anti-Muslim rhetoric and “endless ‘anti-terror’ laws” are in danger of creating a McCarthyite witch-hunt against Muslims, according to the signatories of a strongly worded public statement, who include several controversial figures.

The statement accuses the government of “criminalising” Islam and trying to silence “legitimate critique and dissent”, and decries what it describes as “the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain [and] their values, as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.”

Muslim community rejects the state’s criminalisation of Islam and condemns moves to silence legitimate critique and dissent. This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.

We, the undersigned imams, sheikhs, advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies of the Muslim community, make the following points in this regard:

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Special Delivery: Flowers for the Mean Lady

Muslim Matters - 11 March, 2015 - 04:00

It was a hot summer day. I had just graduated from high school and was working a summer job to make some side money for college. I was a flower delivery guy – bringing happiness to people and getting paid $7.50 an hour at the same time. It didn't get much better than that.

This was almost 20 years ago now, but I'll never forget one of my deliveries. I drove up to the house, knocked on the door, and a young lady answered. There I was, as cheerful as could be, with a big smile on my face and an even bigger bouquet of flowers in my hands. I introduced myself and asked the lady how she was doing. With a very cold and emotionless face, one that said she hated the world and that I was no exception, she replied: “I've been better.” I was so annoyed that day. You go out of your way to be nice to people and sometimes you get quite the opposite in return. Perhaps she thought she was better than me. After all, I was just a flower delivery boy making $7.50 an hour.

Coincidentally enough, a day or two after that, she got another delivery. I decided to give her another chance. I knocked on her door and was very nice and cheerful. But I was met with the same mean look and unimpressed tone. This time, I was borderline angry.

Lo and behold, she received some more flowers, but this time, I would get my revenge. I walked up to the door, with a stern look on my face far meaner than any look she would be able to make, and said with the coldest voice possible, “You have flowers. Sign this.” I walked away, feeling like I had regained some of my dignity. Thankfully, I was able to build on it when she received more flowers the next day. I made sure I had my stern face on when I went to the door, and spoke as coldly as possible without saying anything that would get me fired. “Here. Sign.” I said as I shoved the clip board in her hands. She took the flowers and I left.

The words that were exchanged between us that day were very few, but I do remember feeling that I had hopefully done just enough to ruin her day as much as she ruined mine a couple of days earlier. And it was a good feeling. Regardless of how it had impacted her day, if at all, I at least felt much better about myself now.

Several days later, I came across an article in the local newspaper. The title read: “Eight Year Old Boy Crushed by a Garage Door.” The article described neighbors who were walking by a house and saw the legs of a little child sticking out of the garage, with his chest pinned under the garage door. They ran and beat on the front door of the house where a family was inside having dinner. It gave details of the boy's mother, running out hysterically, seeing her child and screaming, “My baby! My baby!” as she tried with all her strength to lift the garage door off him, but just didn't have enough strength to do so. More neighbors saw what was happening and rushed over to help, and collectively were able to get the garage door up just enough to drag his limp body onto the driveway. His body was lifeless, his face was blue. One of the neighbors tried to give him CPR, but it was too late. What a horrific scene that article painted, as I tried to avoid reenacting it in my mind. Finally, when I saw the name of the street, it all hit me. I finally understood why so many people would be sending flowers to such a “mean” lady. And now that I'm a father, I can only imagine what must have been going on in her world at that time – an incident which probably still haunts her to this day.

There I was, so upset that she couldn't force a smile back at me, when she was probably going through the most difficult thing anyone has to go through in their life – she had just buried her own child.


I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Let the little things go, and have some compassion with people. You never know what struggles they're going through in their lives.

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Indonesian jihadis could be strengthened by return of Isis fighters, analyst warns

The Guardian World news: Islam - 11 March, 2015 - 01:25

The return of up to 200 Indonesians believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq could give local terrorist groups ‘a real oomph’, Lowy Institute told

Indonesia’s jihadi movements could be galvanised by the return of up to 200 Indonesians currently fighting with Islamic State (Isis) and other militant groups, a leading analyst has said.

If fighters were to return from Syria with combat experience and increased legitimacy, it could give local terrorist groups “a real oomph”, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Sidney Jones, told the Lowy Institute on Tuesday.

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MondoWeiss: Israel’s Foreign Minister Calls For Beheading Arab Citizens And It’s Not Anywhere in the New York Times

Loon Watch - 10 March, 2015 - 18:46

By Scott Roth and Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss

Two days ago Israel’s foreign minister called for beheading Arab citizens of Israel who are “against us.” Haaretz did the story yesterday. So did Newsweek.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that Arab citizens who are not loyal to the state of Israel should have their heads “chopped off with an axe”.

The minister, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and an outspoken critic of Israel’s Arab population, made the controversial remarks on Sunday in a speech to an election rally held in the western Israeli city of Herzliya ahead of the March 17 vote.

“Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe,” the ultra-nationalist politician said.

The incitement resulted in a call to behead Haneen Zoabi, the outspoken Palestinian member of Knesset, as reported by this Arabic site and (translated by the new head of the US Committee to End the Occupation, Yousef Munayyer):

An Israeli call to behead Haneen Zoabi

An Israeli call to behead Haneen Zoabi

Lara Friedman of Peace Now has been pushing the story, including Lieberman’s call for “transfer,” or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. “Not the Onion,” she says.

But this story is no joke at all. What would happen if a Palestinian politician called for beheading some Jews? How loudly would our media decry such statements?

This morning the New York Times had still not covered the story.

National Public Radio has given Lieberman a platform in the past. NPR host Robert Siegel also spent an hour interviewing Lieberman at the Brookings institution. Shouldn’t NPR be covering Lieberman’s latest views? Radio silence.

– See more at:

From Che Guevara to Malala

Muslimah Media Watch - 10 March, 2015 - 18:36
In my humble (maybe not so much) opinion, Latin Americans feel a strong attachment to charismatic figures. Think for example, of Che Guevara. Che Guevara is drilled into our minds since an early age as a symbol of justice, leadership and true revolutionary Latin American spirit. In fact, even thinking about challenging the idea of what [Read More...]

Canada: Jason Kenney Tweets Misleading Photos of Muslim Women in Chains

Loon Watch - 10 March, 2015 - 18:33

Not surprising given the Harper government’s pandering to Islamophobes.

Jason Kenney tweets misleading photos of Muslim women in chains

Defence Minister Jason Kenney used the occasion of International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS by tweeting photographs of Muslim girls and women covered in black and being led off in chains.

“On #IWD2015, thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls,” he tweeted along with the pictures on Sunday.

One image shows a group of girls, dressed in burqas and chained at the wrists, being with taken away in pairs. Another shows four women with faces covered, also chained together.

To the casual viewer, these appear to be compelling photographic evidence of the mistreatment of women in some parts of the Muslim world.

And, read with Kenney’s reference to ISIS, they suggest to the reader that these scenes occurred under the terror group’s watch in Iraq or Syria.

But Kenney did not explain that the first image is actually from a ceremonial Shia Ashura procession that celebrates the heroism of the prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussein, and his family. The girls and women in the photo Kenney tweeted symbolize Hussein’s sister, who was taken in chains to Damascus after he was beheaded.

That is to say, the girls in the photos are actors in a play that depicts events said to have occurred 1,300 years ago. They are not a depiction of the current enslavement of Muslim women. There are thousands of images of these ceremonies online.

UPDATE: The exact origin of this photo is unclear but it appeared online as early as 2010 — before ISIS’s occupation of Northern Iraq — in a news story about the Ashura ceremony in the Lebanesse town of Nabatieh that year.

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