The Kashmiri in the Room.

It seems that everybody has had their say about what happened during Salman Khurshid’s talk at SOAS University last week. Everybody from “The Business Standard” to “The Kashmir Walla” seems to have an interesting take on what we did. Yet it seems, once again that the majority of those who reported on our display of dissent didn’t think to ask the Kashmiri, but she too shall speak.

Salman Khurshid, India’s Foreign Minister, came to London to hail Indian democracy, all of its great advances and endeavors across the land of the Taj Mahal. He spoke about India and how his country was on the pinnacle of carrying out “the largest democratic process on earth” whilst conveniently failing to mention that it is the army of his nation, which makes our home the world’s most militarised zone. He did not touch upon the corpses of the numerous International Human Rights accords violated by Indian policy, instead he shrouded them in his country’s flag of democracy.

You must all know the English phrase “The elephant in the room.” Well even this poor elephant gets more attention than us Kashmiris. Now what Salman did not realise is, is that there was not only one elephant in the room that day, there were three. He’d very tactfully decided to skirt around us, maybe in hope that there wouldn’t be an elephant so vocal amongst this budding young crowd of students. But we all know Kashmiris have a knack of being very upfront about things and this new generation definitely has some great lungs on them.

We hadn’t sat through this farce, amongst what was for Mr. Khurshid an international audience, to leave without being heard. He’d said his part, made some interesting comparisons between India’s quest for minerals in the North West to the movie “Avatar” and talked about India’s internal problems in regards to democracy. Apparently these didn’t stretch very far beyond the statements made by the Aam Aadmi Party on social media. And if you were fooled by that, then rather you than me.

At this point, even though I’d arrived with a plan, and a point to make I couldn’t help but feel that by failing to mention Kashmir when discussing the internal problems of the Indian democracy Salman had already unknowingly admitted that Kashmir was not “India ka core issue”. In fact to some extent, to me at least, it indicated that it wasn’t an “internal” part and it was very far from an “integral” one.

However I couldn’t ignore the fact that as it is Indian state policy to do so, he would play the “atoot ang” card whenever it pleased him. And besides this undertone, this private victory I sensed was not at all in any way vocal enough. How could this man, who was amongst those who perpetrate the brutal occupation of our people; perpetrate genocide in Kashmir and commit unparalleled Human Rights abuses, be allowed to stand before us championing the very same state for its democratic advances?

Fahad Shah stood up to question Salman on his silence about Kashmir, he questioned the rhetoric designed by Mr. Khurshid whilst making the statement that India was working towards a seat in the UN Security Council. Fahad termed very eloquently that this was all “complete bullshit” and I’m sure many Kashmiris agree.

Then I stood, the moderator asked me to be seated to which I replied “With all due respect sir, my country has been waiting 67 years for answers.” I asked how 700,000 troops in our home is in anyway democratic? Mr Khurshid wanted to speak, but I was not done. I asked how enforcing 8,000 disappearances is democratic? Where is the democracy in raping 10,000 Kashmiri women? Why has the world’s largest democracy not granted us our UN Plebiscite promised by Nehru?

The moderators of the event started shouting and asking for me to stop and let Salman speak, I told him we’d been listening for 67 years. He made a joke “I’m not even 67 years old….” The hostile crowd made up of mainly Indian students cheered him on. But that doesn’t stop a Kashmiri.

He said I was allowed to have a point of view, that he wouldn’t coerce me into believing his. I replied “But you do. Only last week Kashmiri students were charged with sedition for supporting the Pakistani cricket team, was that not coercion?” He tried to tell us that the charges were dropped because he opposed them. Maybe Mr Khurshid did oppose these charges, but I argue that he only did so because the sedition case caused more media outrage than any other Kashmir story has in a long time. Ask why this was.. It was because Kashmiris spoke out and caught the media’s attention. This bad press was only tearing at the already fragile lie of the great Indian democracy, so did Mr Khurshid really have any choice but to oppose the charges? Could India really afford to allow their democracy to be pulled to pieces by Kashmiris? The answer is no.

But more importantly even after dropping the charges will the coercion cease? No, in fact it will continue, in many cases it will escalate. We didn’t know then that India would kill Farhat Dar, 17, in Bandipora in cold blood with a bullet to the chest, just days after this encounter, but they did. So Mr Khurshid’s statement “I will not coerce you into believing my opinion.” Was, and I will quote Fahad here “Complete bullshit.” India killed another Kashmiri child whilst its Foreign Minister claims “no coercion”

After our disruption, which the third Kashmiri in the room filmed, the talk was shut down. A vote of thanks was given and no more questions were taken. One of the members of the Indian Delegation accompanying Salman told me to get lost. Nice diplomacy, hey? Is India’s democracy so fragile that two Kashmiris taking up just 5 minutes of Salman’s time in the spotlight was enough to scare away the Foreign Minister?

Some, including Salman claimed that by standing up in such an assembly and airing our views we were not respecting a democratic process and to this I have a few questions to ask. Is freedom of speech not my democratic right? It might not be in India, but it sure is in England. Is a room full of Indians including the Foreign Minister jeering at one Kashmiri and attempting to bully her into silence not coercion? Is it not a direct representation of what India does and has always done to Kashmiris?

Had I been child with a stone in Kashmir, I would have been shot dead. That is the reality. Knowing this and that our people have endured over 67 years of brutal occupation how does India, or anybody else whose silence has allowed the carnage to continue, have the nerve to dictate to me the manner in which I can and cannot protest?

Kashmir has been the elephant in the room of the South Asian subcontinent and absent from the minds and agendas of policy makers and influencers globally, for far too long. We as Kashmiris have a responsibility to ensure that this does not continue.

In my country there are a generation of children mourning over the dead bodies of their peers and the world is silent. In this situation it is not the mode of dissent that matters but rather the number of people reached by the noise we make. Protesting at a talk by Salman Khurshid is a means, but is far from an end. In fact, I argue it is only the beginning.

They may discredit our modes of protest, but they cannot argue with the facts on the ground.
India is an occupier and like every occupation in history, it too shall see its end.

Here’s the video if you’ve not already seen it:

German princess appears in court accused of threatening to kill Muslims and attacking fellow revellers at a posh Scots party

Loon Watch - 17 March, 2014 - 17:52

Princess+Theodora+12th+Annual+Latin+GRAMMY+DgxW0Iz8fb0l German princess appears in court accused of threatening to kill Muslims and attacking fellow revellers at a posh Scots party

A German princess appeared in court yesterday accused of threatening to kill Muslims and calling police officers paedophiles at a posh Scots bash. Princess Theodora Sayn-Wittgenstein is also charged with shouting homophobic abuse and attacking fellow revellers and security staff at the exclusive event in St Andrews on Saturday.

The 27-year-old, whose mum is Swedish and whose dad is a German prince, was at the Oktoberfest party at Kinkell Farm with a host of drunken toffs from around the world. It is one of the highlights of the social calendar with students at the university where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met and fell in love.

Sayn-Wittgenstein, from Bavaria, was arrested at the party and locked in a cell over the weekend before appearing from custody at Cupar Sheriff Court. Officers hustled her in through a back door with a coat over her head. It is understood they had to wait until a cell became free because court staff didn’t want her to share with other prisoners due to her background.

The princess’s lawyer, Douglas Williams, told the court his client spoke perfect English but much of what he was saying was going over her head because she was “very upset”. The German royal looked shellshocked when she appeared before Sheriff Charles MacNair with her eyes red and puffy from crying. She pled not guilty to nine charges, all related to assault, threatening and abusive behaviour and obstructing police at the Oktoberfest bash.

Sayn-Wittgenstein is accused of assaulting and kicking one fellow guest, racially abusing a second and making a comment about “killing Muslims”, then kicking and trying to headbutt a third. Other charges include making homophobic and offensive comments to security staff at the event, resisting arrest and accusing police of being paedophiles.

Sayn-Wittgenstein was bailed to an address in central London but will be allowed to return home to Germany. Trial date was set for July at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Daily Record, 11 March 2014

See also ”German princess denies making ‘killing Muslims’ comment at St Andrews charity event”, The Courier, 10 March 2014

Maajid Nawaz declares that Muslims find respect and tolerance for others reprehensible

Loon Watch - 17 March, 2014 - 17:33


Did they ever stick a medal on Nawaz like Bill Maher wanted?

Maajid Nawaz declares that Muslims find respect and tolerance for others reprehensible

Maajid Nawaz sparked heated exchanges with audience members at his first public appearance as Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

The 36-year-old, who will battle against Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Conservative Simon Marcus to become Hampstead and Kilburn MP at next year’s general election, appeared at Hampstead Waterstones to speak about his book Radical on Tuesday.

Mr Nawaz spoke to journalist and commentator David Goodhart in front of a packed audience about the memoir exploring his journey from Islamic extremist to co-founder of counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam.

Audience members were able to put questions to Mr Nawaz who was confronted early on by a Muslim man who accused him of “going from one extreme to another”. The parliamentary hopeful, who spent five years in an Egyptian prison after being arrested in 2001 as a member of Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir, responded by thanking the man for attending the meeting.

He explained: “It’s a sad indictment of where we are today that the sentence, ‘You’ve gone from one extreme to the other’, can be said without anyone really realising how strange that is. It tells us where the Muslim debate is. For the Muslim debate, the other extreme is liberalism.

“When actually the truth is, the other extreme is actually anti-Muslim, fascist violence – Combat 18 or formerly the EDL, which I happened to have a hand in dismantling in this country by convincing their two leaders and two co-founders to leave that organisation.

“Liberalism is respect and tolerance for everyone. The reason why Muslims tend to assume that liberalism is the other extreme is because for them they find it reprehensible that somebody can be liberal and that’s the problem.”

Hampstead and Highgate Express, 14 March 2014

Debt Free Muslims Podcast – Interview With Shaikh Mirza Yawar Baig

Muslim Matters - 17 March, 2014 - 13:12

Direct download in mp3 Format Podcast Episode 4

This episode is brought to you by – Because Muslims matter.

Our guest for this episode is Shaykh Mirza Yawar Baig.

In this episode we cover:

  • Financial issues affecting Muslims in America vs. globally
  • Understanding the concept of rizq (sustenance) in Islam and misconceptions surrounding it
  • The importance of good parenting
  • Wants vs. Needs, identifying needs in regards to things like education
  • Self-Worth that our children need
  • The mindset needed to be debt-free
  • The entitlement attitude
  • The true meaning of sabr
  • What holds people back from seeking scholarships
  • Countering destructive negative attitudes from early on
  • The effects of laziness and a safety net
  • Role of Barakah and Tawakkul and it's relationship with sabr
  • The Tahajjud litmus test

References from Podcast

Shaykh Mirza Yawar Baig online


Lecture Videos Referenced


If you enjoyed this podcast, please take a minute to share with a friend and RATE and SUBSCRIBE in iTunes.

ITunes Link:

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You can also visit our website and sign up for the email list to be notified of new episodes, articles, and get our FREE ebook – A Practical Guide to Debt and Personal Finance for Muslims

Rediscovering Noor Inayat Khan and the Good Muslim

Muslimah Media Watch - 17 March, 2014 - 06:00
I will confess that I first became aware of Noor Inayat Khan, also known as Madeline, only quite recently, that is, during the campaign in 2011 to commemorate her, before it was discovered that she had already been commemorated. I remember looking up her story at the time and coming across her biography, Spy Princess: [Read More...]

Can Americans Be “Real” Muslims?

Muslim Matters - 17 March, 2014 - 05:42

When I wrote the blog Beyond Black Victim Status: Slaves Are Superior, I shared the story of an Arab Muslim high school teacher who told me that Black Americans could never really be Muslim. I wish I could say experiences like this are anomalies to Muslims indigenous to the West. Unfortunately, American Muslims not only have the difficult task of navigating racism and colorism whenever they attend masājid and events populated mostly by immigrant populations, they also have the weightier task of filtering these 'isms' from the teachings of Islam itself.

Stop Imitating the Kuffaar

It was while living in Saudi Arabia I realized that, to many Muslims from predominately Muslim countries, the term kuffaar (an Arabic term denoting those who disbelieve in Islam) is synonymous with “American” or “Western.” Thus, in the minds of non-Western Muslims, anything that is believed to have originated from American culture or “the West” immediately falls under the Islamic prohibition of “imitating the disbelievers.”

The idea that American=disbeliever is so widespread that in many schools in Saudi Arabia, students are forbidden to style their hair in any manner perceived as “American.” Several of my friends' daughters were admonished for coming to school wearing braids or “corn rows” (rows of thin braids plaited to the scalp), and their sons were similarly admonished for coming to school with afros (puffy curly or kinky hair that stands up on the head rather than falls down toward the shoulders). However, Arab female students were allowed to wear thick braids and ponytails, and Arab male students were permitted to have long, straight hair.

Also, many scholars and students of knowledge taught that jeans and “Western” pants are forbidden for Muslims to wear, while Arab thobes and Pakistani shalwaar kameez are allowed—despite the fact that none of these items of clothing were worn by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or his Companions raḍyAllāhu 'anhum (may Allāh be pleased with them).

The Myth of “Islamic Culture”

I don't believe in the concept of making an effort to develop or define 'Islamic culture' or 'Muslim culture.' I see living Islam as essentially prioritizing its goals and limits over our own goals and limits, where our own goals and limits may be set by our own cultural choosing. Basically, be ok with and enjoy your culture whoever you are where ever you are but keep Allāh first and strive to not transgress His boundaries. When culture transgresses the limits, prefer the limits over transgressing. When man defines what of world culture can be framed as Islamic and what can't, it is ALWAYS a subjective activity and the repercussions will result in human beings making holy, the unholy and unholy, the holy.”

—Khalil Ismail, “Islamic Culture?”

Islam is a way of life more than it is a religion, Muslims often say. And depending on how we define “way of life” and “religion,” this is true. But how do we define these terms?

Ironically, most of the time, we don't.

Yet nearly every Muslim (including myself) has repeated this mantra over and over again—with pride and wholehearted belief. And herein lies the problem. Without clearly defining these terms, the mantra takes on a life of its own in the minds and lives of the Muslims repeating it, and the result can be disastrous if we define a people's culture as a “way of life” and thereby imply that it is competing with Islam itself.

And nowhere have I seen the negative effect of this thinking more than on American converts to Islam.

America Is Inherently Evil?

“It was only recently that I began to realize that I'm not inherently evil because I'm American,” my friend told me as she reflected on her experience as a Black American in a predominately immigrant Muslim community—and she accepted Islam more than ten years ago.

Like my friend's experience, often when American converts to Islam attend masājid populated mostly by immigrants from predominately Muslim countries, it is quite the norm to hear lectures and Friday khutbahs imploring the congregation to avoid the “un-Islamic” influence of the West. And like my experience in Saudi Arabia, in these masājid, the concept of “imitation of the disbelievers” means merely appearing or behaving “American”—as judged primarily by the observations and opinions of Muslims who are not indigenous Americans. This belief is so widespread that converts are regularly told to change their American names to “Muslim” ones, and apparently this “rule” extends beyond real life, “When is Tamika going to get a Muslim name?” someone asked me about the fictional character who accepts Islam in the If I Should Speak trilogy that I authored.

Though the actual Islamic caution against “imitating the disbelievers” concerns only matters that are specific to systems of disbelief as opposed to general cultural patterns, it is rare that this distinction is actually made in Islamic classes and lectures on the subject, especially when America or “the West” is discussed. Islamic scholars themselves acknowledge that this issue is subjective; thus, any apparent “imitation” must be weighed against a person's circumstance and culture, and ultimately, any real transgression stems primarily from a person's intentions.

In Islam, as a general rule, worldly matters such as hairstyles, clothing, food, recreation, and any culture-specific speech or behavior do not fall under the “imitation” category. Allāh has made humans different nations and tribes, and naturally, these differences will manifest themselves in how people dress, speak, and interact.

The Truth Behind Anti-American “Islamic” Views

In my experience, the constant vocalized need for Muslims to differentiate themselves from the “evils” of the West and the subsequent labeling of anything “American” as prohibited stem more from personal issues affecting immigrant Muslims to the West than from religious issues affecting all Muslims. Immigrant Muslims left their homelands to settle in the United States despite the fact that many Islamic scholars teach that it is forbidden to leave a Muslim land and settle amongst non-Muslims, except in cases of necessity or for da'wah (calling others to Islam). Thus, in an effort to justify their presence in an apparently “non-Muslim land,” some of them become obsessed with avoiding any form of assimilation, as this is viewed as blameworthy and sinful. Unfortunately, this obsession influences the way Islam is taught in these masājid, which are often attended by indigenous Americans learning about Islam for the first time.

Let the fate of Richard Dawkins be a lesson to you all – Twitter brings out the worst in humankind

Loon Watch - 16 March, 2014 - 22:15


(h/t: Calvin)

Let the fate of Richard Dawkins be a lesson to you all – Twitter brings out the worst in humankind

By   (Telegraph)

Another week, another half-hilarious, half-tragic Richard Dawkins meltdown on Twitter. This time, Dawkins, who prior to becoming a jester of the Twittersphere was apparently a well respected author, used the opportunity of International Women’s Day to blast the “loathsome religion” of Islam. He tweeted a photo of three Afghani women in short skirts in the 1970s next to a photo of three Afghani women cloaked in the burqa today, alongside the words: “How can anyone defend this loathsome religion?” He means Islam. He always means Islam. He has a real problem with Islam, even more than he does with Catholicism, whose teachings he once described as being worse than rape.

His “loathsome religion” tweet was hotly followed by another suggesting that the ritual slaughter of animals for faith reasons – ie halal and kosher – should be banned. “Many complex considerations should influence our treatment of animals. ‘Sincerely held religious beliefs’ are not among them,” he said. He followed this up with yet another shouty tweet, saying: “‘Beliefs’? BELIEFS!” It seems he doesn’t like belief. Or the idea that society should allow people to hold and act on beliefs that run counter to what the rest of us consider to be normal and decent. Which is weird, considering that the entire Enlightenment – to which Dawkins claims to be an adherent – began from a conviction that men must be free to worship as they see fit, regardless of whether their ideas or behaviour offend the majority. In the words of John Locke, in his 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration, how terrible would it be to put men “under the necessity to quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly to resign themselves up to the will of their governors”. Tweet that, Rich.

Dawkins is forever landing himself in hot water over his tweets. He’s tweeted about how few Nobel Prizes Muslims have won, followed by a barb disguised as a compliment: “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He’s tweeted his bamboozlement as to why the New Statesman employed a practising Muslim as its political editor. His tweets are generously peppered with exclamation marks and CAPITAL LETTERS and hectoring phraseology, making it pretty clear that we are getting a glimpse into his unedited thoughts, into the inner recesses of his mind, into that part of the human brain that has always existed – the bovine, often prejudiced bit – but which until recent times was not given public expression. We are seeing how Dawkins’s mind works prior to his exercise of thought and self-editing, and it isn’t pretty.

Continue reading…

Imran Awan: Why Muslims in Birmingham Feel Like a ‘Suspect’ Community

Loon Watch - 16 March, 2014 - 21:08


(h/t: Jai S.)

by Imran Awan, (Huffington Post)

As I walk down some of the most vibrant and lively neighbourhoods in Birmingham I can feel a sense of unease and suspicion from the locals. Made up of a large South Asian population, the people of Alum Rock, Sparkbrook, Small Heath and Washwood heath tell me of a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ culture. They also remind me of past incidents which has led to a ‘breakdown’ of relationship between the police and the Muslim community in Birmingham. That form of anxiety and suspicion is epitomised in the words of Moazzam Begg, who in his last post on Facebook wrote: “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse”.

Most people will know Moazzam Begg, as the former detainee of the US-run military prison in Guantanamo Bay, where he spent almost three years, following the post 9/11 ‘war on terror’ crackdown and released without charge. As part of my study, looking at the impact of counter-terrorism legislation and policies upon Muslim families in Birmingham, a number of people who I have interviewed, have spoken about their anger and distrust of law enforcement agencies and the political elite based in Westminster. One man, I spoke to stated that: “Terrorism Laws have been invented for Muslims, to arrest us and treat us all like terrorists.”

Another woman I spoke to added: “Muslims are being spied upon by the police and the state. I don’t trust them anymore.” That lack of trust is evident from previous cases where people have been arrested for counter-terrorism related offences, but are released and found to be innocent. For example, while studying for a postgraduate qualification in counter-terrorism, Rizwaan Sabir was arrested under the Terrorism Act for downloading extremist material, but was released without charge. In his case, documents from the professional standards unit of West Midlands police revealed that officers had ‘fabricated’ key elements of the case against him. In 2011, Sabir was paid £20,000 in damages by the Nottinghamshire police following his arrest. The case also raised important issues concerning the impact of counter-terrorism arrests upon a person’s family life.

In Sabir’s words: “This is finally some vindication and we can say proudly that I have proved to many, many people who may have suspected that I was a terrorist that I am actually innocent and always have been… It shows and it proves that [the police] were wrong to have behaved the way they did. They were wrong to put me through the torturous experience they did and they have finally accepted that.”

Sabir, is not an isolated case, Cerie Bullivant spent two years on a control order before he was acquitted of all charges. Bullivant was en route to Syria when he was detained by British authorities as a terrorist suspect. What control orders really did was to put suspects under house arrest. Some of the restrictions imposed included monitoring suspects’ activities throughout the day, who they can speak to, and who they can meet. There were restrictions on their telephone calls, travel, and use of the Internet. The police could also visit their home from time to time, and the suspects would also be electronically tagged. They had an impact on an individual’s right to freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of communication, the right to liberty and the right to a private family life.

The impact on Bullivant’s private life included him having to leave college and being shunned by his family and friends. My study which looks at the impact of counter-terrorism policies upon Muslim families in Birmingham shows a similar trend of fear, distrust and anger. I spoke to a number of Muslim families who were worried about counter-terrorism raids. One lady told me: “We are worried… scared they will come smashing down our door, simply because we are Muslim”.

This fear factor for communities in Birmingham, is enshrined in previous policies by the police such as Project Champion in 2010, when a number of secret covert and overt CCTV cameras in predominately Muslim areas paid for by the Terrorism Allied Fund were installed. This highlighted how, in practice, Muslim communities were viewed as a suspect community. An independent report into the project concluded that there was a lack of “transparency” and “accountability” by the police. As the author of the report notes: “the lack of transparency about the purpose of the project has resulted in significant community anger and loss of trust.”

The post, 9/11 ‘war on terror’ narrative, has revealed a new suspect community. Whether inadvertently or not, measures such as profiling, hard-line policing, stop and search and surveillance all have the potential to stigmatise an entire population, such as Irish people living in Britain during the conflict in Northern Ireland, and now the Muslim community in Britain. Clearly, the situation in Syria is complex, however confiscating people’s passports and removing people’s citizenship is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Whilst the situation in Syria unfolds, we must ensure that the golden thread that runs back to the principle of the Magna Carta which is based on justice, due process, and the principle of habeas corpus is not broken by these new measures which ultimately is leading to the Muslim community in Birmingham feeling like a suspect community.

Imran Awan’s study into the impact of counter-terrorism legislation in Birmingham will be published later this year.

Read more about Imran Awan’s study into Project Champion in Birmingham entitled:Terror in the Eye of the Beholder: The Spycam sage: Counter-Terrorism or Counter Productive published in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice in 2011.

Swedish Defence League leader jailed

Loon Watch - 16 March, 2014 - 20:13

Kamil Ryba, SDL Swedish Defence League leader jailed

The anti-fascist publication Expo has reported that Kamil Ryba, head of the EDL’s sister organisation the Swedish Defence League, has been sentenced to six months in prison for threatening the staff at GT, the Göteborg edition of the Swedish daily Expressen.

Ryba turned up at the GT offices last December to protest against Expressen publishing the names of people who had anonymously incited racial hatred. He threw an egg and said he would come back with a knife next time. Ryba subsequently returned and left a package containing a knife and a copy of the Qur’an, which was addressed to the editors of Expressen and GT. The package was seen as a possible bomb threat and GT staff were forced to evacuate the building.

Ryba pleaded not guilty. According to GT, he claimed that by including a knife with the Qur’an he intended to convey that Islam is a violent ideology, not a religion. However, he was convicted of the offence of violating civil liberty, on the grounds that he had made threats that endangered freedom of expression. Ryba’s lawyer stated that he will appeal against the verdict.

Kamil Ryba with Lennon, Spencer and Geller

Kamil Ryba with Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”), Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller at ‘counterjihad’ rally in Stockholm in 2012

Bid to boost feminism among Muslim women

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 March, 2014 - 17:37

The charity Maslaha is aiming to persuade more Muslim British women to engage with issues of gender equality

For many feminists the hijab is a glaring symbol of male oppression and the patriarchal power of religion. But now there is a small but growing number of Muslim women looking to take their places in Britain's rapidly expanding women's movement.

A new project to connect Islam to feminism has been launched to tackle long-standing concerns that religious Muslim women are excluded from the women's rights debate.

In what is a deeply controversial area for many in Islamic communities and for many mainstream feminists, the linkup between a Muslim charity and the project is seen as a pioneering step to bring women from different cultural backgrounds together in the battle for sexual equality.

The social enterprise Maslaha, established by the Young Foundation to work on improving social conditions in Muslim and minority communities, said the programme had attracted a huge response in the past few days.

"An awful lot of Muslim women have felt excluded from the debate about women's rights and this project really focuses on bringing ordinary women into a debate about Islamic feminism that has so far only really been heard in academic circles," said Latifa Akay of Maslaha.

She said the online resource was bringing out some extraordinary responses from British Muslims who reported feeling previously isolated.

"This is really taking off. Islamic feminism is not a new thing, which will probably surprise most people, but Muslim women have the same core concerns as white, secular, British women: the workplace, discrimination, childcare.

"And also they have different layers of struggles and different layers of oppression, just as a black lesbian will have different struggles to white disabled women, and none of them should be excluded just because they are diverse.

"There has been a dire lack of spaces for women within Islam to have these kinds of conversations and they have felt very much that their religious beliefs exclude them because religion is seen as patriarchal."

Feminism has been on the rise over the past few years in various Islamic countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, but it remains a taboo in many more traditional communities who fear that it will lead women away from religion.

"The internet will help Muslim women find each other, just as it has for young secular women in Britain, and start a real conversation," said Akay.

While a number of new books on Islam and feminism have been appearing around the world in recent years, the UK has been slow to catch up.

Last year when a University of Derby lecturer, Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, published Muslim Women in Britain: De-mystifying the Muslimah, she said she believed that many of the misconceptions around Islam were directly linked to how people believed the faith treated its women.

"The media portray Muslim women as oppressed and subjugated and Islam is often presented as misogynist and patriarchal," she said, and her book was intended as an antidote to that.

The term Islamic feminism first made its appearance in the 1990s. In 1992, Shahla Sherkat, an Iranian who took part in the revolution of 1979, published the first issue of an Islamic feminist magazine, Zanan, which was later banned.

Tracy McVeigh © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Anti-Muslim bigots freak out when Texas TV station warns of oncoming haboob

Loon Watch - 14 March, 2014 - 22:37


Quite similar to the freak out over “haboob” in Arizona back in 2011.

Anti-Muslim bigots freak out when Texas TV station warns of oncoming haboob

By Travis Gettys  (RawStory)

Texas television station KCBD kicked up a cloud of anti-Muslim bigotry Tuesday night by sharing an alert from the National Weather Service on its Facebook page.

“Haboob northwest of Lubbock as seen from the Science Spectrum,” the NWS warned. “If you must drive west of Lubbock, plan for near-zero visibility in blowing dust and strong winds of 50+ mph.”

Although haboobs are more commonly known as “dust storms,” a NWS meteorologist said the Arabic word refers to a particular weather phenomenon.

A haboob refers specifically to a wall of dust created by cool, dense air blowing away from a thunderstorm or along a cold front, said meteorologist Jerome James.

But it signaled something even more threatening to some of the station’s Facebook fans.

“Never had a haboob until we got that muslim boob for potus,” said viewer Jeff Bertrand, referring to President Barack Obama, who is believed by some of this critics to secretly be a Muslim.

Haboob 1
Haboob 2
Haboob 3
Haboob 4
Haboob 5

Meteorologists have used the word “haboob” since at least the 1950s, James said.

He said dry conditions in Texas had made the phenomenon, with its distinctive brown skies, more common in recent years.

The English language uses many words with Arabic origins, including cotton, algebra, candy, lemon, alcohol, and sofa.

[Image via Wikipedia Commons]

Saudi book fair bans 'blasphemous' Mahmoud Darwish works after protest

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 March, 2014 - 15:42

Removal of books by revered Palestinian poet from Riyadh publishing event is condemned by PEN as censorship

The removal of works by the esteemed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish from a major book fair in Saudi Arabia for reportedly containing "blasphemous passages" has drawn widespread condemnation, with English PEN calling the ban an attempt "to censor one of the Islamic world's most important modern poets".

The Riyadh international book fair, which closes tomorrow, has already come under fire for destroying the stall of the Arab Network for Research and Publishing, a press which focuses on books about Saudi Arabia and political Islam. "The site appeared like it was hit by a rocket," co-founder Nawaf Al Qudaimi – who tweeted a picture of the destruction – told the Wall Street Journal.

According to the daily Makkah newspaper, the event's organiser the Ministry of Culture and Information said the books "violated the kingdom's laws".

Now a range of books by Darwish, the late Palestinian poet whose poems are taught in schools throughout the Arab world and who is seen as one of the most important poets in the Arabic language, have been pulled from the fair, one of his publishers confirmed to the Guardian. The removal was "amid allegations that they contain blasphemous passages", according to Gulf News, and followed complaints from the "religious police" about the contents of the books. The local paper said that "a verbal confrontation broke out between youths and a stall owner, leading large crowds to gather around" and that security officials then "took control of the situation, dispersed the crowds and referred all those who had gathered to the fair's security committee". Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran tweeted a link to a video "said to show conservatives protesting against Darwish's books in Riyadh book fair".

Publishers were unwilling to speak on the record about the books' ban from the fair, because "if you antagonise the authorities you will be banned from selling books in the country", one told the Guardian.

But the writers' group English PEN issued a stinging rebuttal to the move. "It is bizarre and disappointing that the government of Saudi Arabia has allowed a small group of people to censor one of the Islamic world's most important modern poets. The Riyadh international book fair is supposed to promote culture and commerce in Saudi Arabia, but this incident has had precisely the opposite effect," its said head of campaigns, Robert Sharp. He also pointed to the case of newspaper columnist Hamza Kashgari, who was imprisoned without trial in Saudi Arabia for two years after he posted a short series of tweets in which he imagined a dialogue with the Prophet Muhammad.

"Blasphemy laws stunt cultural development," said Sharp. "If the government truly wishes Islamic art and culture to flourish in the Kingdom, it must urgently repeal these outdated laws."

Darwish's award-winning translator Fady Joudah also opposed the move, adding: "Darwish's vision and treatment of religious texts, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, are of a celebratory character that dissolves all three into one, and links them to other myths. No one has done this before anywhere in the world, regarding these three religions at once."

Joudah said: "A genius of his work is that it suspends literary criticism in these matters and moves past it. In other words, it exposes also the theocracy in literary criticism. I am not sure Darwish's books were ever that readily available in Saudi Arabia in the first place."

Blogger Margot Lynx Qualey said: "Certainly withdrawing works by Mahmoud Darwish hits a level of outrage – or scoffing – beyond past moves by the PVPV [the kingdom's Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue] and the Ministry of Culture. Although the fair is purportedly a zone of free access to literature, there is an expectation of some level of censorship. There's also an expectation of some difficulties at the fair (men not being able to get books signed by women authors, men being told their hair is too long to enter, protests, books being contested and removed). But Mahmoud Darwish has a singular literary status: he was not just a poet of global renown, but a poet whose work – at least some of it – resonates with a tremendously wide range of people. Of course, as people note on Twitter, you can get most of Mahmoud Darwish's ouevre somewhere online."

Darwish, who died in 2008, is known for poems including the celebrated Identity Card, told in the voice of an Arab man giving his identity number:

"Write down at the top of the first page:
I do not hate people.
I steal from no one.
If I am hungry
I will eat the flesh of my usurper.
Beware beware of my hunger
And of my anger."

Alison Flood © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Yasir Qadhi: Thoughts on (AE) Abu Eesa-Gate

Muslim Matters - 14 March, 2014 - 13:29

The Arabic word for trial is fitna, which has the connotation of purifying a useless external shell and leaving the useful inner core. A goldsmith in classical Arabic is called a fattan, meaning one who causes fitna, because his actions cause the outer layer of impurities present in gold ore to fall away, and leaves the pure gold underneath. Similarly, a fitna exposes the reality of a person: the veneer of false mannerisms intended to show off a façade of falsehood disappears, and one's core level of God-consciousness, integrity, and commitment to truth are displayed for all to see. For me, that is exactly what this latest online fitna has done.

Everyone who is connected to the Western world's blogosphere is painfully aware of the internet fury that is abuzz for the last week, involving a very dear friend of mine, Ustadh Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who has come under fire for some jokes posted on his Facebook page. I have not gotten involved until now for two primary reasons. Firstly, because I try to concentrate on that which is beneficial to the Ummah, and leave controversy as much as possible; and, secondly, because I was waiting for AlMaghrib Institute's official response, since I did not want to cause more confusion for AlMaghrib by releasing a personal statement from me before they released an official one from them. Now that the situation has reached such unprecedented levels, with all and sundry feeling the need to comment and write, and now that AlMaghrib has officially released its response (here), I feel that it is beneficial to offer some thoughts from someone who is directly involved with AlMaghrib, and is a friend to Abu Eesa.

Here are my thoughts, summarized in seven points:

(Disclaimer: if you are unaware of this controversy, and don't wish to expose yourself to that which will not benefit you, PLEASE, stop reading now, and read some Qurʾān or do some dhikr or support some useful charity or make du‘ā’ for Palestine/Syria/Guantanamo instead!)

Firstly, what amazed me most about this whole debacle was the power of the Internet to generate such a movement and stir up such controversy. In all my years of blogging and using this social media, I have never seen any issue taken up so rapidly and passionately by the Islamic blogosphere. Quite literally overnight, the world witnessed thousands of Facebook messages and tweets about this issue; dozens of articles; half a dozen petitions – all involving tens of thousands of people. For me, such power was simultaneously astounding and terrifying: astounding because it demonstrates the sheer clout of this tool to highlight one cause and hijack all others, and dominate every other news item; terrifying for exactly the same reasons. Abu Eesa's controversy quickly spiraled out of control and escalated to a global online topic in less than 48 hours; it was as if this was the only subject of conversation around the online globe for an entire week.

I wish that, in the future, even a fraction of this power could be utilized to highlight other projects and causes that we can all agree about.

Secondly, while nothing new, the harm of casual conversation and useless chatter and made-up gossip was demonstrated once again. Allāh warns against such casual smearing in the Qurʾān ('Why did you speak with your tongues that which you have no knowledge of?'), and informs us that when any news comes from an untrustworthy source, we must verify it directly. Yet, it appears that people simply lose the ability to think critically when all of their friends say the same thing. It is as if the human situation is such that groupthink is the default. Democrats and Republicans. Blacks and Jews. Mexicans and Southerners. It doesn't matter what the actual facts are: what matters is how 'my people' are interpreting the facts, and if 'my group' says something then I must see the world in the same way.

Abu Eesa never made any jokes about rape, or FGM, or domestic violence. Anyone who thinks otherwise, after reading the entire conversation, either does not speak English as a mother language, or is blinded by rage. The context of his words clearly indicates this. (Yes, there were jokes about the role of women and IWD, which will be discussed in a later point, but there was not a single joke about violence towards women). Yet, the flagrant lie that he joked about such vicious topics continued (and continues) to be perpetrated, even by respectable bloggers and academics online.

Be truthful, and criticize him for the jokes that he actually said, not ones that you've heard others assume him to have said.

Thirdly, one of the main problems of this controversy was that there were multiple truths at play here. Each party had some legitimate issues and real concerns, and the supporters of both sides took on Abu Eesa's case as symbolic of their grievances with the other group. From my perspective, Abu Eesa and his jokes became a pawn that played out between far larger and antagonistic forces within the Ummah.

And it was interesting and useful to see the dynamics play out between two camps. For many on the (for lack of better term) liberal side of the spectrum, Abu Eesa became the stereotypical bogeyman radical fundamentalist misogynistic Mawli/imām/Shaykh figure. By examining the criticism leveled against Abu Eesa, one could even more tellingly examine the psychological mindset of some critics and their perception of most traditional Islamic scholarship. What these critics failed to realize that this bogeyman was largely a figment of their own imagination, and not the real Abu Eesa.

Similarly, on the (again for lack of a better term) conservative side of the spectrum, the knee-jerk reaction of complete defense also revealed the extreme anger that this group feels towards the tactics of the other group. It was as if no criticism of Abu Eesa was valid, or even allowed, merely because some critics were coming from a 'liberal feminist' paradigm, intent on (allegedly) challenging the authority of Allāh and His Messenger and wishing to destroy the very foundations of the faith. Hence, to point out any fault with such jokes, however politely and Islamicly, automatically caused one to be labeled as 'the Other'.

The world is not monochromatic, and every real picture is multifaceted. The critics had some legitimate concerns, and the supporters also had some legitimate concerns, and very few people realized that.

Fourthly, regarding the actual content of the jokes themselves. I believe that jokes, and even the occasional sarcasm, are permitted in Islam, but with certain conditions. And of those conditions is that people's sensitivities not be unnecessarily provoked, especially when those sensitivities involve the rights of an already oppressed and marginalized segment of our community.

Jokes are like salt to one's food, and should be used in miniscule quantities, with great wisdom. One of the first pieces of advice that a dear mentor, Ustadh Yusuf Estess, gave to me before I started preaching, was the following, “If a joke offends one person, then you've offended one too many.”

I do not believe joking about women's issues, or their intelligence, or belittling their role in society, helps anyone. I do not believe such joking is in accordance with the Sunnah of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). I do not believe it is befitting of a scholar and an Islamic activist to make light of such a delicate subject. And Abu Eesa knows this of me and from me – he can testify that I have expressed this to him and to others who joke in such a manner multiple times.

Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), when his servant `Anjasha urged the camels his wives were riding to hurry up, said, “O `Anjasha! Be careful with the fragile vessels!” Words can hurt more than the jostling of a camel, and I believe that Muslim men need to follow this advice with their tongues, and their actions, and be careful of harming society's fragile vessels if they wish to achieve the pleasure of Allāh.

It is true that cultural differences also played a minor role here. It's not a coincidence that most detractors came from North America, whereas most supporters came from England. The genres and styles of British humor are completely different than its American counterpart (they even spell it differently!), and the Brits are more accustomed at 'taking the mic' than Americans are.

Still, even taking into account British humo(u)r, I believe Abu Eesa's jokes went too far. I believe that when he was confronted about this, he initially acted stubbornly, which exponentially compounded the entire situation to the nth degree. I believe he took too long to apologize the first time. I believe that the first apology was unnecessarily worded, with too many caveats and qualifications. But I'm happy to see that he's finally realized all of the above and issued a much better apology (although not quite perfect in my opinion). I pray that he learns from his mistakes and does not repeat this behavior again. And I say all of the above regardless of who his critics are, for the truth is independent of which side you happen to be on.

Fifthly, it was extremely distressing as well to see the complete lack of adab shown by many of his critics. To me, it was reminiscent of scenes portraying a Salem witch hunt, in which crazed mobs go banging door to door to increase their numbers, chanting slogans of 'Burn the witch! Off with her head!' The sheer lack of compassion and mercy – of Islamic manners – was very depressing. Even if one believed Abu Eesa behaved in an inappropriate manner, surely there are better ways to get one's point across than by calling for his firing?

Those who criticize others for lacking proper manners must be the first to demonstrate it. In this regard, I say loudly and clearly: most of the critics themselves failed this test.

Sixthly, it was surprising to see so many peers from amongst the scholarly and activist community commenting on this issue so brashly. Scholars and Islamic activists should rise up above emotional, knee-jerk responses, and work to minimize tensions amongst Muslim groups, not exacerbate them. This point was especially disappointing for me to see. I can excuse the masses and activists who don't have an Islamic studies background, but for someone who claims to speak on behalf of the religion to act in such a manner was disheartening. Although a few activists did write leveled and fair responses, I feel that most of them wished to portray themselves as 'heroes' for a cause that all of us wish to champion, viz., women's rights in Islam, but they did this by furthering tensions between groups of Muslims. Rather than working to solve the tension, many activists only wanted to jump on the bandwagon and raise banners calling for revenge without studying the issue thoroughly.

Additionally, at the human level, I believe it is almost impossible to look into the recesses of one's own heart and be completely sure that one is criticizing a peer, or someone from an alternative theology, or a scholar from competing Institute, sincerely for the sake of Allāh. Can one be so sure that the heart is absolutely pure in such criticism, and that there are no personal, selfish motivations as well? It is for this reason that scholars of hadith have unanimously agreed that criticism of contemporaries and peers against one another needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There are numerous examples of this in our books of the narrators of hadith.

When a problem is created in a community that is not your own, Islamic activists should reach out to someone in that community and express their frustrations to him first, rather than tweeting about it and airing dirty laundry in public immediately. And even if you deem public criticism necessary, attempt to heal wounds through your comments rather than rip them apart more. And one final reminder to them (and the ones that I reference know exactly who they are): know that as just as you were eager to pounce on and display the faults of your brother, so too shall others even more eagerly pounce on and publicize your faults.

Seventhly, I want to make my position on 'feminism' explicitly clear. The term itself is almost useless, since there is no clear, well-defined, agreed-upon definition. Hence, when a term becomes meaningless, it makes little sense to either use it or refute it. Rather, the word is discarded, and the realities and concepts underlying it are discussed specifically.

I firmly believe that the sacred texts of Islam, the Qurʾān and the authentic Sunnah of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are the ultimate sources of our theology, legal code, and ethics. Hence, any attempt to discredit these sources is one that I will oppose in every way possible. I will not and cannot accept that men and women are physically, physiologically, emotionally, biologically, and psychologically the same. Any claims of this nature contradict known facts, lived experiences, and explicit Scripture. Hence, the Shariah views men and women as having complementary roles in society and in family, not identical. While men and women are spiritually equal, and both have equal opportunities to earn Allāh's Pleasure and Paradise, in this world, the Shariah takes these differences into account, and does have different sets of laws for them in some arenas (not all). Any attempt to claim otherwise is simply wrong and untenable in light of the Islamic tradition, and I will oppose it as a Muslim scholar and theologian.

That having been said, I also recognize that historically, many Muslim societies have gone too far in depriving women of their legitimate rights, and in relegating women to a second-class status that I do not view our religion as sanctioning. We need to differentiate what the religion ordains, and what culture has sanctioned. Merely because a practice is culturally acceptable in a Muslim context does not equate to religious endorsement of that practice. There is no denying that women in many Muslim societies are physically and mentally abused and molested, and that Muslim culture has turned an increasing blind eye to such blatantly un-Islamic abuse. I consider it my religious duty to combat such abuse and to expose any such un-Islamic practice as being opposed to the teachings of this pristine religion.

I also recognize that the Shariah allows for change and reform in some areas, and I feel it is imperative that religious scholars, duly trained in the sacred sciences, take the lead in such reform. Historical traditions are not necessarily sacred and immutable, and I welcome changes that the Shariah allows.[1] It is of little concern to me whether one wishes to call these types of reforms 'Islamic feminism' or not. What matters is meaningful change that the Law allows and which betters the lives of Muslim women, not cheap slogans devoid of meaning. Yet, I would be unwilling to call for reform in, say, the Islamic laws of inheritance, since these have been explicitly laid out in the Sacred Texts. If some people consider rejecting the explicit texts of the Qurʾān to be 'Islamic feminism', then I view it as being a manifestation of kufr, and you count me an ardent opponent of any such endeavor.

Anyone who wishes to supplant the Sacred Texts with another ideology does so because of a simultaneous lack of faith in the Divine Revelation of Allāh, and an inferiority complex to another system of laws and culture.

Let me conclude with a final anecdote from the recent annals of American history. When President Obama was first running for office, and the Right was desperate to find anything to smear him with, they used the tactic of smearing his cleric and mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They found, from amongst the Reverend's thousands of sermons, snippets of fiery rhetoric that made him appear anti-American. Now, everyone who knows anything about the African-American experience, and the type of rhetoric typically heard in their churches, would have immediately understood such rhetoric and put it in its proper place. But the Right persisted in attacking the Reverend and succeeding in portraying him a most unpleasant and evil person, which he clearly was not. Initially, Obama tried to defend the Reverend, and even went so far as to drag his grandmother into the picture by claiming that his own grandmother had also made racist remarks, but that doesn't deny the overall good in her. However, as the Right increased the savagery of their attacks, Obama buckled under pressure, and simply cut off all ties with the Reverend. That was the first sign for me that Obama was a politician like all other politicians, and that he had no stamina or backbone to stand up for the very principles he won his campaign on. I think I speak for most of our readers when I say that we have no respect for the morality and principles of our current President; his handing of Reverend Wright's issue is symptomatic of why we have lost all respect for this man. When his own popularity was at stake, Obama was willing to throw a close friend and ally under the bus merely to pander to people who didn't even care about him in the first place. In so doing, he lost a good friend, and he lost his integrity.

I seek refuge in Allāh from pandering to anyone's threats and from sacrificing what I believe to be the truth for the sake of popularity. I pray that Allāh always give me the courage to speak what I believe is the truth and not fear the criticism of the critic.

Abu Eesa is a dear friend to me because he is a loving, caring, gentle, sincere scholar. I would trust my life and my family's life to him – and I don't say that merely as a figure of speech. He is no misogynist, he is no woman-hater, he is no racist. If he truly were any of these, I would not be a friend to him. I know that he will not like me saying this, but as a family friend I know that he treats his wife like a queen, that he is a loving and caring father to his daughters, and that he is a dutiful son to his mother. And that is the actions of 'feminism' that Islam calls for, and Abu Eesa lives up to (even if he despises the word!).

In his time of need, when he has been improperly smeared, made into a bogeyman scapegoat and charged with false accusations by people who do not know him personally, I cannot abandon him for the sake of my own popularity. It is true, he made a major mistake in this incident (and will continue to make other mistakes), and God knows he has faults (the primary one being his stubbornness!) but in my eyes, he is one of the most God-fearing, God-conscious and merciful people that I have the honor and privilege of befriending. I would rather allow my reputation to be sullied, and all of my critics to continue criticizing and defaming me, before I jump on the bandwagon of popularity and smear him or dissociate from him. He has faults (don't we all?), but these faults drown in the good that exists in him, and this is a matter that his family, his friends, and his students can all testify to.

And in the end, true success lies with Allāh alone.

“And patiently persevere in the company of those who call upon their Lord, morning and evening, desiring His Pleasure; and do not allow your gaze to stray beyond them merely to acquire the luxuries of this world. And do not follow those whose hearts We have deprived of remembering Us, and follow their whims, and their entire affairs are in disarray.” [Sura al-Kahf; 28]

[1] For example, an area of reform that I personally am very interested in leading and being a part of is the Islamic laws of alimony. Historically, a divorced lady only received her mahr – nothing more and nothing less (although the Qurʾān encourages an adequate 'gift'). And pre-modern Muslim societies dealt with divorcees in an appropriate manner: large-family and tribal systems provided adequate means to absorb the care and maintenance of such ladies; divorcees didn't have the type of stigma that is attached to them today; and polygyny was commonly practiced. All of these conditions (and more) allowed divorced women the freedom to continue living in somewhat normal conditions after a divorce. However, in our times, all of these conditions have changed, and all too often, divorcees have little recourse to maintenance and living expenses, putting them in undue hardship. It is simply unfair that a man can divorce a woman after many decades of marriage, and leave her stranded in a strange land and country, without any means to take care of herself, after she has given him her youth and support for most of her life. The mahr dating back half a century, might be a thousand rupees (thirty dollars?), yet she is now stranded in America, after her husband's newly-acquired wealth allows him access to a younger and prettier woman. I have no qualms in saying that the goals of Islamic law would not allow for such injustice. Let us bring about reform and put conditions in the marriage contract that would obligate a prorated alimony percentage depending on the years of marriage. This is but one example; many more can be made. Such reform is long overdue in my opinion, and the Shariah allows for and encourages it.

Showing that a story isn't factually accurate doesn't diminish its truth | Andrew Brown

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 March, 2014 - 10:00

One of the great blessings of religion is that it allows us to be gracefully inconsistent, balanced in ways that don't make sense but still move us on

The historian Tom Holland has been in a Twitter spat with a Muslim who accused him of racism and worse for his sceptical approach to the origins of Islam. In response, Holland tweeted a 2003 paper showing that this view is neither novel nor eccentric among historians. The most lucid and eloquent statement of this case is still his own book In the Shadow of the Sword, but for a short introduction you could do much worse than the paper he cites.

Essentially the argument is that the tools of historical inquiry suggest that the foundational story of Islam was made up long after the events. This isn't just about whether an angel dictated the whole book to the prophet, but whether he ever had anything to do with Mecca or Medina.

This is, obviously, a rather touchy subject. If you accept the case of the revisionist historians, the figure of Muhammad becomes less like Jesus and more like Moses, or like King Arthur. The prophet undoubtedly existed, but the Mecca of the Qur'an is as hard for archaeologists to find as Camelot would be.

None of this affects the power or importance of the story. I think it's silly to maintain that "mythological" means "untrue".

But it is the peculiar quality of Christianity and Islam that they claim that eternity broke into history at a particular time. In Christianity, this claim has been elaborated around the figure of Jesus. In Islam it seems to be associated with the text of the Qur'an – something supposedly eternal and never changed or edited.

So historicising either of these claims is traumatic. The name of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram – "western learning is forbidden" – expresses an important truth about the effect of dispassionate inquiry. History, not science, is the real enemy of dogma. But history won't do to replace religion, because it's never going to show us the one true story.

I hate this conclusion myself. Like any normal person, I want and need stories to be true, not least because it is the stories we believe that make coherent action possible. This is fairly obviously true of social groups, which need shared histories to bind them together, whether we're talking about a nation of millions or a marriage of two. But it is also true of each of us as individuals.

Stories are what filter the world, give it coherence, make it possible to think and act through time, and construct our personalities. Denying them threatens all that, which is why blasphemy feels like an existential threat – and anyone who thinks this vulnerability is something only "the religious" suffer from has never been through a bad breakup.

For a story to be strong enough for us to trust it absolutely it has to be absolutely true and timeless. But no story is. There is always more, or another story that can be constructed. In other words, for a story to work, it has to be false. Only by lying to ourselves can we function at all.

We can't get away from this by talking about "just the facts", since what constitutes a fact is its relation to other facts: stories and facts can't be entirely separated. A story is not just an arrangement of independently existing facts: it is also something that calls them into existence, or makes them visible.

One way out of this is the Christian doctrine of God who shows you what you need to know only when you need to know it. This makes God a morally equivocal character (but then, what account of his dealings with humanity doesn't?) but it does give believers a warrant that what they believe at this moment is what they need to act rightly, even if they may in future come to believe something completely different.

I really don't know if a similar approach is available to Muslims. They'll need it though. One of the great blessings of religion is that it gives us the equipment to be gracefully inconsistent, balanced, like a bicyclist, in ways that just don't make sense but still move us on.

Andrew Brown © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Friday Links | March 14, 2014

Muslimah Media Watch - 14 March, 2014 - 06:00
March 8 was International Women’s Day and, as usual, there was a sudden rise in news items that feature women, some of which will be featured in this week’s Friday Links. At the same time, women around the world were involved in protests. A few dozen Iraqi women took to the streets to demonstrate against [Read More...]


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