Monday, December 10, 2012

Haja Zeinab: Islam is Peace.

Haja/Zeinab (left) with Francis Crowe, Mother of peace movement in W.Massachusetts
 "I was raised in a community very tolerant and very diverse in the 1920s in Cairo. In one building, we lived Muslims, Christians, and Hews together. As neighbors, we used to baby sit each others kids and feed them. We shared food during each religious Holidays. Islam, like all other religions meant peace and tolerance. That was and is my religion. period."

Haja/Zeinab O. Elzebair (84 years, went to Haj, Pilgrimage, four times in Mecca.
She gave a very moving speech at the Human Rights day Forum in Amherst, MA on Dec 9th, 2012.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Human Rights Challenges in the Muslim World

A perfect timing to discuss this major concern for human rights defenders in countries ruled by draconian religious laws.
What a better example than Iran?
Human Rights Challenges in the Muslim World: The Case of Iran”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No to the Salfai Shari'a Laws

from the website of
الدعوة لطريق محمد وتطوير التشريع
دعا الاستاذ محمود  الى تقليد النبى محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم كمنهاج للسلوك الدينى بهدف توحيد القوى المودعة فى الانسان ، من قلب وعقل وجسد ، والتى وزعها الخوف الموروث والمكتسب ، ثم الى تطوير التشريع الاسلامى بالانتقال من الآيات المدنية التى قامت عليها بعض صور الشريعة ، الى الآيات المكية التى نسخت فى ذلك الوقت لعدم تهيؤ المجتمع لها ، حيث الدعوة الى الديمقراطية والاشتركية والمساواة الاجتماعية ، المدخرة فى أصول الدين ، وقد بسط الاستاذ محمود فكرته فى آفاقها الدينية والسياسية والمعرفية بعلمٍ واسعٍ ، وحجةٍ ناصعةٍ ، وصبرٍ على سوء الفهم وسوء التخريج وسوء القصد الذى قوبلت به فكرته من معارضيها ، حتى ذهب يقينه بفكرته واخلاصه لها ، والتزامه ايّاها فى اجمال حياته وتفصيلها، مثلا فريداً فى الدعاة والدعوات
المساواة الاجتماعية وحقوق النساء
كان موضوع المرأة من اهم المواضيع التى عالجها الاستاذ محمود فى فكرته ، حيث دعا الى تطوير التشريع فيما يختص بشريعة الأحوال الشخصية ، والى وضع المرأة من حيث التشريع فى موضعها الصحيح ، بعد أن تعلمت وتسنمت الوظائف الرفيعة ، متجاوزا بذلك القصور الفكرى الذى ظل ملازما للفكر الاسلامى السلفى تجاه وضع المرأة فى التشريع الدينى ، ومتجاوزا دعوات تحرير المرأة التى هدفت لمحاكاة الغرب، ومقدما فهما جديدا مستمداً من اصول الدين ، يقوم على مساواة الرجال والنساء أمام القانون وفى النظام الاجتماعى ، انطلاقا من فكرة تطوير التشريع الاسلامى ، واستلهاماً أكبر لغرض الدين فى الحياة الحرة الكريمة للنساء والرجال على قدم المساواة. وقد كان أكبر تجسيد لدعوة الاستاذ محمود الى تطوير وضع المرأة الدينى هو المرأة الجمهورية نفسها ، فقد دخلت تلميذات الاستاذ محمود من الجمهوريات التاريخ كأول طليعة من النساء تخرج للدعوة الى الدين بصورة جماعية ومنظمة ، فى ظاهرة فريدة ظللتها قوة الفكر وسداد السيرة وسمو الخلق

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Persecution of Baha'is continued in Iran

Source: * This article has been updated to reflect new information on the number of arrests in connection with the BIHE raids.

GENEVA — A coordinated series of raids have been carried out on the homes of several Iranian Baha’is, active in a community initiative to provide a higher education program for young members who are barred from university.

Reports indicate that raids took place on Saturday 21 May on as many as 30 homes in Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, and Shiraz. It is now understood that some 14 Baha’is have been arrested.

“All of the targets were homes of individuals closely involved with the operations of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was established in 1987 as a community initiative to meet the educational needs of young Baha’is who have been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian government. The BIHE has been described by the New York Times as “an elaborate act of communal self-preservation.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Cruelty of Sharia Law

From Facts & ArtsThe Cruelty of Sharia Law is Not a Western Perception but an Islamic Reality by Tawfik Hamid

Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid), is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

President Barack Obama's adviser on Muslim affairs, Dalia Mogahed, has provoked controversy by appearing on a British television show hosted by a member of an extremist group to talk about Sharia law, the Daily Telegraph reported on October 8, 2009.

Ms. Mogahed, an appointee to the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said the Western view of Sharia is "oversimplified," and that the majority of Muslim women around the world associate Sharia with "gender justice."

The White House adviser made the remarks on a London-based TV discussion programme hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the extremist Hizb ut Tahrir party.

Hizb ut Tahrir believes in the non-violent destruction of Western democracy and the creation of a global Islamic state under Sharia law.

Mogahed said: "I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of sharia than the common perception in Western media". Her views on this matter are similar to the conclusions that she made of her survey in the Muslim world which she summarized in her 2007 book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, co-authored with John L. Esposito.

What matters in this story is not that Mogahed's comments were said to a Hizb ut Tahrir member, but rather the lack of factual reality about Sharia law contained in her statements and conclusions.

At the theoretical level, Sharia books teach and instruct the followers of Islam to implement cruel and inhumane treatment for women, such as beating wives and stoning them for committing adultery. Endorsements of polygamy and underage marriage are also established teachings of Sharia Law. These concepts, which clearly discriminate against women, are unchallenged in the mainstream Sharia books.

It would have been much better if Dalia Mogahed, instead of blaming Sharia cruelty on Western perception, had mentioned to the audience the name of even a single approved Sharia book that stands clearly against these inhumane teachings.

In Mogahed's survey, female Muslim respondents might well have said that Sharia represents justice simply because criticizing Sharia Law can create major trouble for these women in their societies. In addition, based on traditional ways of teaching Islam, denying a well established and approved Islamic law (called in Sharia: "Maaloom Mina Al-Deen Bil Darura,") such as any of the former laws, makes the critic an "apostate," who deserves to be killed by the Muslim society and who will then "go to hell to be tortured forever". Such a fear of punishment can impede an honest critique of Sharia law in the Muslim world, thereby casting doubt on the accuracy of the conclusions driven from the survey.

Asking a Muslim living in a Muslim society about his views about Sharia is like asking a German living under the Nazis or a Russian during Stalin's era about their views regarding Nazism or communism, respectively. Can we expect to receive honest answers to such questions? The fear of punishment for criticizing the system can completely override people's free will and impede their ability to give honest responses.

When I was young and living in the Muslim world we used to brag that Islam is the ONLY religion that gives women their rights, and that polygamy, beating women, and stoning them for adultery represents wisdom that is beyond our human comprehension. Our fear of criticizing such teachings or interpretations prevented us from being able to give an unbiased evaluation of Sharia law.The research of Ms. Mogahed should have sought to eliminate this element of fear or to use indirect evaluation methods; given that she did not, it is hard to draw reliable conclusions from of her research. There is no single piece of evidence in Mogahed's book that suggests that the fear factor was considered in the evaluation process or that her statistics were corrected for this bias.

It is also important to note that the questions that were asked of Muslim women as described in this book were rather non-specific; thus, it is difficult to use them to give an accurate evaluation of Sharia. For example, there is no single question in the above mentioned book that asks specifically about the violent edicts of Sharia law.

It can be extremely inaccurate to evaluate the reality of Sharia by simply doing a questionnaire asking for the views of Muslims about it. As an analogy, what if we asked Bin Laden about Sharia law? He would likely tell us that "it represents justice." In his view, the killing of infidels is justice! The same concept applies to Ms. Mogahed's questionnaire.

For example, when Muslim women in the survey say that Sharia represents justice, this does not necessarily mean that those women consider beating women, polygamy, or stoning for sexual misconduct to be forms of injustice. The questions should have been tailored to ask about specific laws such as beating or stoning of women, rather than general points.

Furthermore, at the practical level, all the current systems that implement Sharia Law-such as those in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan, and parts of Somalia-legalize the above-mentioned barbaric teachings against women. It would have been better if, instead of trying to convince her Western audience that Sharia law is fair to women, Ms. Mogahed had given the audience one single example of a country that applies Sharia law and at the same time forbids polygamy, beating of women, or stoning. In fact, the Muslim countries that do not legally discriminate against women or justify cruelty to them, such as Turkey and Tunisia, are only those countries that refuses to implement Sharia Law, relying instead on secular laws.

To conclude, if all approved Islamic Sharia books and all the systems that apply Sharia accept or practice the previously mentioned barbaric treatment of women, then how come Ms. Mugahed is trying to sell the idea that Sharia law is fair to women? As mentioned earlier, the view of some Muslim women that Sharia law represents justice could stem from extreme fear of criticizing an Islamic law, or it may represent a form of cultural pride that prevents many Muslims from openly criticizing their traditional teachings. If all Muslim women were to say that Sharia Law is just in its treatment of women, this would not make it true, as the terrorists would also claim that Sharia law legalizing fighting infidels to subjugate them to Islam is a just law. Some people's perceptions about Sharia Law do not change its fundamental nature. The only way to change the Western perception about Sharia is to change its reality.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On the Origins of Political Islam

by Hisham Osman Adam EisaDec. 2010يعيش العالم العربي والاسلامي منذمايربو علي ثلاثة عقود افرازات ما كان يعرف حينها باسم( الصحوه الاسلاميه)وهي ظاهره لها جذورها الاجتماعيه,التاريخيه ولها دينامياتها النفسيه وتتفاوت تجلياتها قوه وضعفا من بلد لاخر.وللخروج بنتائج عامه حول طبيعه اتجاهات ونوع تطلعات الجماعه الدينيه المشتغلة بالسياسة,ينبغي النظراليها ضمن المعطيات التاريخية المحددة لنشأة الظاهرة وتطورها وينبغي ايضا استشفاف مفعول تلك المعطيات التاريخية في تشكيل ملامح وخصوصية العلاقة بين الديني والسياسي.
فعند الكشف علي الجذور التاريخية لمسار الحركات الدينية المعاصرة لابد من استخدام المنهج التاريخي واستقراء تاريخ كل عنصر من عناصر هذه الظاهره ولابد من استخدام المنهج الوصفي ايضا لدراستها من حيث هي واقع قائم.

والجماعة الأم التي وضعت حجر الأساس لبناء الإسلام السياسي كانت في مصر المعاصرة ثم تفرعت من تلك الجماعة كما هو معروف جماعات دينيه لا تزال تعمل في ميدان الإسلام السياسي , ودراسة جماعات الإخوان المسلمين أو الالجماعه الام في ايجاز غير مخل لهي مطلوبه في هذا المقام لاعتبارين:
الاول : الكشف عن الجذور التاريخيه للاسلام السياسي المعاصر ,كيف استنبتت جذوره وكيف اينعت واثمرت ثماره.
الثاني : إن جماعه الاخوان المسلمين الام ما زالت تعمل في ميدان الاسلام السياسي جنبا الي جنب مع الجماعات الفروع .
ويدخل في يقين كاتب هذه السطور إن الإسلام السياسي بتعدد أطيافه وبتباين روافده وتياراته لايعدو كونه ( ظاهره تاريخيه) اقصي سقف لمردودها الانساني هو أدلجه المصالح الوقتيه للشرائح المرتبطه بالظاهرة ارتباطا تاريخيا ووجدانيا وانسانياوباقل القليل من من الكدح الفكري , لذلك هي مجرد ظاهرة لا تدخل في عداد المناهج الفكريه ذات الطبيعة المدرسية . ودراسه ظاهرة بهذا التوصيف لن تكتمل إضاءة مشهدها بمعزل عن التعرف علي الشخصيات التي كان لها دور فعال في حياة هذه الجماعة منذ النشأة الاولي لها والي إن تشعبت وأصبحت جماعات لا جماعه واحده .
والشخصيات التي يعرف لها هذا الدور الفعال في حياة جماعه الإخوان المسلمين فيما نري , ثلاث شخصيات ؛ حسن البنا ,عبد القادر عوده , سيد قطب .لعب الأول دور المنشئ للجماعة _الباني للتنظيم الهيكلي , والمحدد لمضمون الدعوة واهدافهاووسائلها .
بينما لعب الثاني دور المفكر الذي يقوم بعمليه التاصيل , حيث يرد كل فكره تتبناها الجماعه الي أصولها الدينية . مبينا وشارحا عبر عمليات تنظير تنتهي دائماالي إن ما جاء به الإسلام هو الأفضل , وهوالذي يقدم الخير للبشرية ويسعد الناس فهو من صنع الله وليس من صنع البشر .
اما الثالث , فقد لعب حسن ظني الدور المهم في حياه جماعه الإخوان المسلمين وفي حياة جماعات الإسلام السياسي التي تلت ,بما ادخله من تغيرات وتعديلات علي فكر الجماعة الذي كان تلقينيا, ذو قوالب جامدة في التعاطي فعرفت الجماعة علي يديه الحوار الساخن والجدل العنيف والاستقطاب الفكري وانتهي الأمر إلي وجود تيارات ثم جماعات تدعو لفكرها وتعمل لحسابها الخاص
ونحن إذ نقف مع كل واحد في هؤلاء الثلاثة لنتعرف في غير استطراد علي المساهمة التاريخية لكل .
حسن البنا هو الشخصية التي حملت نفسها مسئوليه تكوين هذه الجماعة في مصر أولا ثم في مختلف البلدان الاسلاميه ثانيا .
والمسار التاريخي لحياه حسن البنا قبل تكوين هذه الجماعه يكشف لناعن بعض من الوقائع التي كان اثرها البالغ في توجيهه الوجهة الدينيه تلك .
فقد ولد حسن البنا وعاش في بلده المحموديه وهي مهد الطريقه الحصافيه وقد كان في صباه ومطلع شبابه من اتباع ومريدي الشيخ عبدالوهاب الحصافي الذي كان معروفا بانه دائما ما يوصي اتباعه ومريديه بمجاهده الزنادقه والملاحده والمبشرين ولعل حسن البنا استبطن نزعه شيخه تلك وتاثر بها وصبغ بها تدينه الشخصي ومن ثم صارت تلك النزعه ذات اثر بالغ في عمل وفكر الجماعه .
ويحكي انه كان في بلده المحموديه ارساليه انجيليه تبشيرية , تعلم التطبيب وفن التطريز وتأوي اليتامى , ثم تأسست كرد فعل لتلك الجمعية في المحمودية , جمعيه تاخذعلي عاتقها مواجهة ما تقوم به الارساليه من عمل وتدعو إلي مقاومه المنكرات , وتلك هي الجمعيه الحصافيه الخيرية . وكان حسن البنا هو السكرتير لهذه الجمعية .وبالتالي فان مقاومه التبشير التي لازمت بدايات فكر وخطاب الإخوان هي من رواسب تلك الوجهة التي وجهته إليها الطرق الصوفية الحصا فيه وهي كانت طريقه ذات سمات خاصة, إذ كان يقوم خطابها علي جمع غير موفق بين الصوفي بنهجه الدعوي التسامحي والسلفي بغلواءه المتشدده . ولكن كل تلك الوقائع لم تجعل من حسن البنا الانسان المنصرف الي العمل السياسي , فلم يتحقق له ذلك الا بعد إن انتقل الي القاهره طالبا في مدرسه دار العلوم واخذ يغشي مجالس رجال الفكر الديني وقد ذكر ذلك بنفسه في كتابه (مذكرات الدعوه والداعيه) .
وانه في تلك المرحلة بالذات ,كان قضيه نظام الحكم في الإسلام مطروحة بعنف ,يطرحها رجال الدين وكذلك رجال السياسة ويتحاورون حول كل بعد من إبعادها .
وكان الدافع لذلك كله إن كمال اتاتورك الغي منصب الخلافة وعزل الخليفة واحل محل نظام الخلافة النظام الجمهوري المؤسس علي المبدأ السياسي _مبدأ القوميات. وقد اثأر هذا الصنيع من أتاتورك العواصف ورأي البعض إن الأخذ بنظام الحكم الوارد من الغرب وإحلاله محل ما يعتقدون بأنه النظام الديني الإسلامي هو خروج علي الإسلام

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the History of Progressive Islam


Does Progressive Islam Need a Genealogy?

By Farish A. Noor ~ July 29th, 2009.
(Note: This is a summary of the paper I gave at the Conference on Progressive Islam and its Global Challenges organised by the Sharif Hidayatullah Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta over the weekend. – Farish)

History has the curious effect of rendering permanent, firm and stable things that are contingent and even radically so. More often than not the recourse to history is precisely a search for the sort of stability and certainty that many a political project needs, as if without the benefit of a long history behind it a new idea is rendered novel, contingent and possibly even dismissed as being out of place and out of time. But herein lies the irony of the situation: for in our search for origins and the false comfort of an immutable history, have we forgotten the fact that almost all the great ideas that have shaped the development of human civilisation were, at the point of their genesis, radically contingent and outside the frame of the ordinary as well? Its not for nothing that revolutionary ideas are historically revolutionary as well.
Which brings us of the past, present and future fate of this thing called ‘Progressive Islam’.

Progressive Islam is not a new school of thought or some fad that is a symptom of the post-modern times we live in. Progressive Muslims are not re-inventing Islam or re-writing the Quran and Hadith, anymore than progressive Christians, Hindus or Buddhists are reinventing Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism. What all these religious progressives have in common is the earnest wish to translate the meaning and ethical import of their respective faith and belief-systems into social and political realities that are keeping with the spirit of the times we live in, for fear of the fact that if the normative aspects of lived religiosity do not tally and concur with the ethical norms and the phenomenal discoveries of the modern age then religion will simply be reduced to a relic of the past and religiosity will be reduced to empty meaningless rituals.

Of course the development of progressive Islamic thought has a history to it, in as much as the development of progressive Christian thought can also look back to the past to seek assurances of dogmatic conformity and exemplary models to emulate. In the case of progressive Islam, progressive Muslims today look back to the models that were set by the likes of al-Ghazali, ibn Rushd, ibn Khaldun et al. It was ibn Khaldun who pioneered what would later come down to us as modern political sociology, in his landmark work the Muqadimmah. Ibn Khaldun’s emphasis on the role played by human reason and agency as the central motor to history was revolutionary at the time as it placed human beings at the centre of the phenomenal world, and relegated to the margin the effects of fate, chance and even divine intervention. It was Khaldun who insisted that the rise and fall of nations was due to human beings and their actions, rather than being fated or determined by metaphysical or supernatural forces.
Yet we also know that the works of men like Khaldun were never really rendered mainstream in Muslim intellectual culture and that Khaldun was later brought back to global prominence thanks to the works of non-Muslim European thinkers like Rosenthal instead. Likewise it was in Western Europe that Muslim rationalism flourished the most, where it served as one of the basis for the Western Enlightenment project and by doing so laid down some of the foundations of Modernity.

Thus for progressive Muslims today to claim that their efforts to liberate normative Muslim religiosity from the shackles of outdated tradition, patriarchy, neo-feudalism etc can be so easily traced back to a singular tradition of Muslim rationalism that is somehow meant to be linear and deterministic is a case of over-simplification at best. There are no historical reasons or evidence to prove that the road from al-Ghazali leads us directly and immediately to Muslim rationalism today. We may search the annals of the past to seek models of yore, but there have also been huge gaps between the past and the present when the tradition of Muslim rationalism was so weak as to appear almost dead and non-existent.

So what then are the uses of history and genealogy? If not to offer some solace in past models, what can history to for us today?
The answer to the question lies in part in what sort of history we are talking about and what we hope history will do for us. If ‘history’ is to be understood in the narrowest sense of being merely an accurate objective record of what happened where and why, then history is at best a record of data and dates, and little else. But if we were to attempt a different approach at reading history, one that is akin to the approach of Foucault where history is instead read as a history of power-relations, hierarchies and histories of silencing, marginalisation and foregrounding, then we may be getting somewhere.

For what we need to know more than ever is not whether there were rational progressive Muslim thinkers like al-Ghazali, ibn Rushd or ibn Khaldun, but rather how and why were their ideas deemed relevant and important at one stage and then dismissed, censured and erased at another. What kind of history we need is not merely a history of ideas but also a history of the institutions and opportunity structures that render some ideas palatable – or even vitally necessary – and other ideas repugnant at different stages of a society’s development. In short we need to ask who were the ones who rendered the tradition of Muslim rationalism redundant, dangerous and anathema to Islam, and why?
For this is the nature of the struggle that progressive Muslims (like their Christian, Hindu and Buddhist counterparts) are facing today: While progressive Muslim theologians, scholars and activists continue to try to break down the hegemony of outmoded forms and norms of thinking, they are being derided and condemned by their co-religionists as ‘enemies of the faith’ (and of course the secret agents of America, the global Zionist conspiracy, Western capitalism and other nasty things.) Yet as we have seen elsewhere and in other faith communities, the struggle to evolve and develop one’s outmoded forms of religious thinking can also bring about results as long as we understand that the struggle is a fundamentally political one. Apartheid in South Africa, for instance, was justified by conservative Christians on religious grounds, and it was challenged by progressive Christian activists who engaged with scripture but with the intention of challenging political realities at the same time.

Today Progressive Muslims need to do the same thing and realise that our struggle to liberate the public domain of Muslim society is a fundamentally political struggle that has to work with and also against institutionalised forms of power, control and hegemony. History may give us some models and examples of how this was attempted centuries ago by Muslims who were regarded as modern and progressive then, but history cannot win the struggle for us today.
Which brings me back to the question: Does progressive Islam need a history?
Well, in a sense all new ideas are at the outset ahistorical. At the moment of Islam’s genesis there was no history as there was no precedent. The day after the first Muslim was converted and the community came into being, Islam’s history was 24 hours old. Yet despite its newness Islam’s message was no less relevant for not having a past. As it is with Islam, so was it with all the faith systems that are built on revealed knowledge. All the major religious and belief systems of the world were likewise ahistorical at the outset, and their endurance, spread and survivability depended not upon history – for there was no determinism or teleology involved here – but rather thanks to the engagement with real structures of power, dominance and counter-hegemony.

Progressive Muslim intellectuals today should therefore be cautious about falling back on history as if history immediately affords an idea with a certain epistemic worth that it might otherwise not possess. For a start, even the most reactionary and conservative Muslim or Christian would also fall back on history for some sense of temporal grounding, and again the case of the use and abuse of Christian dogma as a justification for Apartheid comes to mind. Just because someone quotes historical facts to you does not mean that she or he is immediately correct: in effect the person might just have a good – albeit selective – memory!

The second related worry about relying too much on history would be that if history is going to be the bulwark for every transformative project of social liberation and advancement, then there can be no real radical, revolutionary changes to any society for every new development will immediately be subsumed under the register of historical continuity and sameness. Yet we forget that for religion to have its radical, transformative and liberating potential it also needs to retain its radical distance from social norms and conventions that are outdated and ossified. Progressive Islam needs to have teeth, and be able to bite off the redundant and oppressive aspects of normative Muslim life that have become so profoundly unjust that they no longer concur with the prevailing mood and ethics of our times. But no progressive tradition can have this transformative potential if it immediately situates itself in the comfort zone of historical continuity and sameness.

Sometimes, it pays to be ahead of time or even out of time. And that was certainly the case with all the Prophets of the past.