News and Analysis (1/21/18)

January 21st, 2018

His attorneys argue that U.S. support of those rebels not designated as terrorists “is evidence that it believed the belligerency against Assad was legitimate warfare and that fighters against Assad were entitled to combatant immunity”:

O’Callaghan was unable to defend such absurdities as classifying people forced by the government to come to the U.S. for purposes of prosecution on foreign soil “immigrants” and excluding domestic terrorism by native white supremacists:

The prisoners ask “the court to look at our detention today, based on accusations from 15 years ago and on evidence too weak to allow imprisonment for this long, still with no end, and decide if just laws allow this”:

A Baptist minister says that a “substantial majority of non-Muslim Americans still don’t know very much about Islam and tend to think in monolithic terms, derived largely by what they see on television, acts of extremists” …

… Exhibit A, the external affairs chief at the Corporation for National and Community Service who, in filthy language, urges Muslims to leave the U.S. and engage in scatological and pedophilic activities:

“[B]eing a Muslim is about good character. We Muslims shouldn’t allow harsh words to get under our skin. We must not insult people who insult us because of our religion — and we must always be on our best behavior”:

Islam “is a patriarchal religion, she said, but as a Muslim woman, she is not required to work. If she does, she can keep her own money, she said. ‘Who would not like that?’ Shaiq asked. One man raised his hand”:

“Direct military action against territory held by Kurdish militia opens a new front in Syria’s civil war and sees Ankara confronting Kurds allied to the United States at a time when Turkey’s relations with Washington are reaching breaking point”:

“[F]inally we have a movie where we [Muslims] are not a bad people … that shows Afghan bravery against al-Qaeda and the tyranny of the Taliban”:

Refugees are demanding that “their safety can be guaranteed and Myanmars grant their demands to be given citizenship and inclusion in a list of recognized ethnic minorities … [and] that their homes, mosques and schools … be rebuilt”:

News and Analysis (1/18/18)

January 18th, 2018

Because data doesn’t support the Muslim ban, the administration elected to doctor it …

… “two new independent studies issued this week show that … the number of Americans killed by white supremacists in the U.S. last year was far higher than those killed by Muslim extremists”: 

Linxia county students”are prohibited from entering religious buildings over their break…. Students must also not read scriptures in classes or in religious buildings … and [must] work to strengthen [communist] ideology and [atheist] propaganda”:

“Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel — a bill that was … a profound assault on basic First Amendment freedoms”:

“I can’t, in good conscience, accept this award from the brand and celebrate Gal’s ambassadorship after the IDF imprisoned a 16-year-old girl named Ahed Tamimi last month, an activist who is currently still incarcerated”:

“Muslim women … defying the stereotype of women … [include] a girl from Germany who’s a celebrity in the Karate world, a female boxer from London, and a comic artist that depicts the humor and kindness of Muslim women”:

“Turkey says it is getting ready to launch a massive assault on Kurdish forces on the other side of the border with Syria – potentially putting it in direct conflict with its Nato ally, the United States”:

“[T]he formerly passive movement has quietly formed its own fighting forces and vice squads and aligned itself with warlords and governments in eastern, central, and western Libya, with its eye on complete control over Libyan society”:

“The largest Muslim rebel group … signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 … [in which the former promised to] create a new autonomous area in the Mindanao region offering more political and economic power”:

“This has happened 24 times—every time I leave the country. They are so nice in America, honestly, they are nice. But my wife and I have to wait hours while they ask questions”:

News and Analysis (1/16/18)

January 16th, 2018

“There are very few sellers in the community who are willing to work with us on the idea of building a mosque,” he said. “Several said the land is for sale, but not for us”:

He “picked up the Koran as he prepared to give sworn evidence under religious oath, before he chose the Bible when court staff pointed out the difference” and then admitted not returning company uniforms he wore in inflammatory videos”:

Police spokesperson Mark Pugash “said police don’t know how the story escalated. He stressed it’s ‘quite rare’ for someone to make false allegations of this type, and said he hopes it will not discourage others from coming forward”:

“Syria’s main Kurdish groups … [are among] the few winners in the Syrian war, working to entrench their autonomy over large parts of northern Syria. Washington opposes those autonomy plans even as it has backed the SDF”:

“[H]e has every reason to feel the world has treated him badly, but is still so positive, open, gentle and optimistic,” said Simon. “His gentleness is a hard-earned gentleness”:

“Richardson said he was chosen by Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to sit on the 10-member board that will advise on … the freedom of journalists to observe and report on” the persecution of the Royhinga Muslims:

On his national tour promoting Muslim political participation, Ellison says, “I am praying for us to have a voter participation committee in every single masjid in the U.S.”:

IS THERE MORE TO FREEDOM THAN A DREAM?

January 15th, 2018

IS THERE MORE TO FREEDOM THAN A DREAM?

Keynote Address by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
at the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland’s
Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Memorial Service
at the Christian Community Memorial Church January 15, 2018

[This address draws on substantial material from Dr. Ahmad’s paper on “Alternatives to Violence in Muslim History: Parallels to American Cases and Prospects for the Future” published in Citizenship, Security and Democracy: Muslim Engagement with the West, included here without further attribution.]

Bism Allahir-rahmân ir-rahîm. In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Allow me to greet you with the traditional Muslim greeting, As-salaamu `alaikum!  Peace be upon you.

I thank the organizers of this annual memorial service for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the opportunity and the honor to pay tribute to that great figure in America’s movement along the long arc towards freedom by sharing a few thoughts on the important question I have been asked to address: “Is there more to freedom than a dream?” I have been charged with informing you about the history of Islam on this question, and I am glad to be able to do so in a context that allows me to mention the resonances in that history with Dr. King’s remarkable life work.

Those of you as old as I am will recall that during his lifetime Dr. King was not as widely beloved or respected as he is today. He was a polarizing figure seen by many as troublemaker rather than as a liberator. Even among admirers of the civil rights movement that dominated the era, there were those unable to appreciate the significance of religion to his work. I became aware of this at a colloquium for college students in the late 1960s. I had raised Dr. King as a counter-example to someone’s clam that religious people were obstacles to the advancement of freedom. A representative of the organizers objected that Dr. King was a secular figure. I marveled that an older, educated man, actively involved in organizing of a seminar on civil rights was unaware that the Reverend Dr. King was a Baptist minister, or of the deep spirituality that underlay his ideals, his tactics, and the very language he marshaled to his cause. Older now, and less naïve, I realize that many people, even in academia—and especially in the halls of power—see religion as merely an issue of group identity, or of rituals that are the conventions and dressing of religion. They have no conception of the powerful wellsprings of faith in great ethical ideals that dwell at the heart of religion.

To me, two pronouncements characterize the essence of Dr. King’s message. The first is that all men are created equal. The second is that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.  Neither of these concepts originated with Dr. King, but there was something seminal in the way he used them. He was quoting Thomas Jefferson when he said that “all men are created equal,” but King’s emphasis on the word all was a reminder that that freedom is for everyone. Jefferson knew this. Even though he was a slaveholder until the day he died, he declared, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” By emphasizing the adjective all, Dr. King, without altering a word highlighted the hypocrisy of the American narrative in Jefferson’s day, in his own day, and—alas, in this day as well.

The “arc of justice” phrase comes from the transcendentalist Unitarian minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker who wrote, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” In the next lines of this sermon Rev. Parker added, “Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.” And indeed they did. The earthquake that was the Civil War was a violent consequence of motion of the tectonic plates of human history on that long arc toward freedom for everyone.

Dr. King’s dream was one of liberty for all, and his faith in the moral arc of the universe was a conviction that this dream would one day be realized, although he knew, and stated, that he might not be there when it was. More than dream, it is an inevitability, albeit one that requires human struggle to be realized. Dr. King was more than a dreamer, he was a tactician. Although the tactics of mass peaceful civil disobedience were not original with him—Mahatma Gandhi had already developed them in the highly spiritualized society of India—Dr. King demonstrated that they could be implemented, and succeed, in the highly commercialized society of America.

The tactics of civil disobedience employ practices of religious devotion to mobilize mass resistance. The five pillars of Islam can be seen in critical tactics of peaceful resistance. The idea that the individual is directly responsible to the Almighty is inherent in the Shahâda, or declaration of the faith of Islam, that “there is no god but God.” To those dedicated to the service of God, the demands of human rulers to do evil have no authority. Americans know the concept of individual civil disobedience through the example and teachings of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau most clearly articulated the moral imperative for noncooperation with evil in his essay on civil disobedience. The New England transcendentalist’s arguments echo Islamic fundamentals. Thoreau wants right and wrong to be determined not by the majority, but by conscience. The Qur’an says, “By the Soul and the proportion and order Given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it And he fails that corrupts it!”

Thoreau echoes this sentiment in his observation that an inordinate respect for the laws of man leads to warfare and slavery: “I do not hesitate to say, that

those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them. I think that it is enough if they have God on their side, without waiting for that other one. Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.”

Individual disobedience to commands to do evil is a natural consequence of a belief in a direct responsibility to God. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, in his inaugural address, told the assembled people that they had no duty to obey him if he gave a wrongful order, but rather had a duty to correct him. Throughout the history of Islam there have been many examples of individual civil disobedience. The founders of the four Sunni schools of Islam were imprisoned and/or tortured for their refusal to cooperate with the authorities, and the Shi`a scholars historically denied the legitimacy of wrongful rule.

Organized mass civil disobedience is a tactic normally associated with the modern era, and Gandhi’s influence on Dr. King is well known. Yet the first act of organized mass civil disobedience in history of which I am aware was conceived and directed by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He had a vision in which he led the people on the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca at a time when the city was still in the hands of his enemies, the polytheistic tribe of Quraish. He told the people to put on the pilgrim garb and to come with him unarmed into the holy precincts in violation of the expressed will and intention of the authorities in power. The Muslims did not allow their disciplined nonviolence to be broken by the provocations of the Quraish. This demonstration of the power of active nonviolent resistance resulted in a peace treaty referred to in the Qur’an as a “Manifest Victory,”: “It is He who sent down Tranquility into the hearts of the Believers that they may add Faith to their Faith; for to God belong the forces of the heavens and the earth; and God is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.”

The other four pillars of Islam are prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage. Prayer and fasting are such familiar tools of mass resistance as to require no elaboration here. Charity too can be seen as an element of mass mobilization. Charitable work by social reformers unites different segments of society. (In any case charitable donations are needed to fund the cause.) Think of the Quakers and the Sojourners. The Muslim activist Abdul Ghaffar Khan, founded the Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) whose members “pledged to refrain from violence and [to] devote two hours a day to social work” and played a pivotal role in ending the British occupation of India when newsreels of his followers shot down in cold blood shocked the British public.

As for pilgrimage, rallies, marches, and chants are integral elements of resistance, and the Muslim pilgrimage is a great rally for brotherhood. Indeed, the pilgrimage to Mecca played an important role in reconciling Malcolm X to racial integration, the principle issue on which he previously had differed from Dr. King. As Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the opportunity to share his dream of a nation in which children would be “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” so the final farewell pilgrimage of Prophet Muhammad was opportunity to instruct his followers to create such a society. He sermonized,

“O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father is one. All people are the same as the teeth of a comb; they came from Adam, and Adam is created from dust. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor a black over a white, except by God-consciousness. God has made your blood and your property (and your honor) as holy as this day is holy.” He then asked, “Have I conveyed the message?” The crowd, estimated at 144,000 persons, roared back in the affirmative. He said, “Let those who are here tell those who are not here. Perhaps those who hear the message last will understand it better than those who heard it first.”

More than a dream, freedom for all men and women is the end point of that arc of history towards justice. Achieving it requires both struggle and faith, which brings me back to the starting point of my address: the importance of religious faith to Dr. King’s work. The faith that sustained him in the Birmingham jail and in confrontations with ill-wishers and brutish police is of a kind with the faith which the Qur’an said puts “Tranquility into the hearts of the Believers that they may add Faith to their Faith.” Dr. King himself put it well in the sermons collected in his book Strength To Love:

“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God.  He is able to beat back the gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil.”

“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a great benign Power in the universe whose name is God, and he is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”

“A positive religious faith … instills in us with the inner equilibrium needed to face strains, burdens, and fears that inevitably come, and assures us that the universe is trustworthy and that God is concerned.”

To that, I say “Amen.” Thank you for your kind attention.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (1/13/18)

January 13th, 2018

“Hate crime reports and statistics don’t capture the full scope of hostility toward [American] Muslims.” Without religious liberty, “the law serves to maintain the second-class citizenship of Muslims”:

Despite his apology, Hoekstra’s assertion that he merely “mixed up countries” falsely implies that politicians were burned in some other Europe:

Blacklisting of peace groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee only demonstrates the depth of Israeli repression:

“The attack comes as Canada approaches the first anniversary of a deadly shooting in a Quebec City mosque that killed six people at prayer … [part of] an increase in far-right extremist activity in Canada, much of it targeting Muslims”:

Is the BJP taking away the citizenship of Indian Muslims by just omitting them from the registry?

“Democratic revolutions like Tunisia’s are first and foremost about liberty for the individual. … This time, the lesson is in how to build a healthier and more inclusive economy”:

“[T]he current protests in Iran … may not mean Iran is fed up with theocracy, just that they’ve had it with corrupt theocracy—the current protests started over the price of eggs”:

Iran, Russia, Germany, and France all call out the folly of Trump’s insistence that if Iran does not agree to remove the termination date on the treaty he will terminate it immediately …

… and even as threatens to remove a barrier to Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons he “embraces the role of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to adversaries, and … backs a costly modernization of the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal”:

“The plan harks back to the creation of an anti-Shiite Salafi mission near the Houthi stronghold of Saada that sparked a military confrontation in 2011 with the Yemeni government … [and later] was closed … to end the fighting”:

News and Analysis (1/11/18)

January 11th, 2018

“Until and unless the urban middle classes and the poor join in common cause—as they did in 1979—there will be no revolution”:

“’Embarrassing performance from controversial ambassador,’ read a web headline at De Telegraaf, one of the country’s largest newspapers” …

… “Dutch-U.S. political and military ties go back four centuries and American officials rarely face hostility from Dutch media” but reporters are “angered” by Pete Hoekstra’s absurd evasions and duplicity:

The debate over whether the Muslim ban is in opposition to “American values” persuaded “many Americans who had previously supported or been neutral on the issue of Trump’s Muslim ban to come down against it”:

“ALS, will eventually steal the voice he uses to teach and paralyze his body. With a time limit on his life, he thinks about the things that drive his faith and work: orphans, the homeless, a prison system he sees as broken”:

“[T]riple talaq was banned in 2002 on the ground of it being derogatory to the holy Quran … and Caliph Umar … used to award a punishment of 400 lashes to a man who would resort to irrevocable or triple divorce”:

The new law gives Muslim citizens of Thrace the choice whether to adjudicate family law issues in Islamic courts or state courts …

… but leftist MPs want to deprive them of the right to choose:

Although it is unlikely to inspire many Singporeans to adopt violence, a sophisticated new propaganda video demonstrates that “the information war with ISIS is far from over”:

News and Analysis (1/9/18)

January 9th, 2018

“Eventually, colonised peoples bring to the fore a figure best suited to challenge the rotten values at the core of the society oppressing them. Ahed is well qualified for the task”:

From fake news of WMD in Iraq to suppression of a story on a “harebrained” CIA plot to give fake plans for a nuclear weapon to Iran, James Risen explains how the government manipulated and intimidates the press:

Let them eat chitterlings? “The step affects about 150 – mainly Muslim – pupils who take the “substitution meals” out of 600 local students in total”:

There were no organ donations until the 20th century, so it is unsurprising that they are not mentioned in the Qur’an or the Hadith, but most Islamic scholars have concluded that they are “acts  of great charity … supported by … Islam”:

“[A]n American Muslim woman specializes in teaching about the Holocaust at a Christian College in the most Jewish city in America”:

“Dearborn, Michigan, has been thrown into conflict … about fear, ideology and identity politics – and what it means to be an American … [in] a sleepy, affluent suburb and … subject of rumours about Isis terror cells and sharia law”:

Myanmar claims the were “arrested for possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine State and security forces … illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”:

“Many revered Shiite clerics, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, argue against the Iranian model of clerics ruling over secular government, especially in a diverse society”:

While no hard evidence of U.S. influence in the recent protests in Iran, the U.S. introduction of the subject to the U.N. Security Council is itself an example of interference into the internal affairs of a foreign country:

News and Analysis (1/6/18)

January 6th, 2018

“Some critics feel Allam’s fatwa had little to do with the mechanics of cryptocurrency and even less correlation to Muslim ideology” and more to do with delivering “religious rulings that support the state”:

When an informant told the FBI that Llaneza was harmless, with the mind of child, and had been so mediated by treatment for his mental problems that he couldn’t even hold a shovel, they decided to target him for a sting operation:

It is telling that “the judge and the prosecution are wearing the same uniform…. It’s really dangerous that the prosecution is implying that live-streaming is the worst form of incitement”:

Palestinian journalists and activists have been censored while “[c]alls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed”:

The “perception that Jews and Muslims are very different from one another and just don’t get along … couldn’t be further from the truth”:

“[M]ore often than not [conversion]’s a positive influence, which can open a pathway to rehabilitation. It gives inmates some semblance of structure and provides a motive to stay away from drugs and alcohol”:

Ibn Khaldun said that a dynasty falls when the social solidarity of early generations is replaced by a taste for luxury in later generations; in Iran that process seems to have moved very quickly:

Iran has been the victim of terrorism, which may account for its “success in combating terrorist groups throughout the region.” In contrast, a Hillary Clinton email accused Saudi Arabia provided support to ISIL:

“A Catholic charity on Friday protested that Facebook had removed a page for Vienna’s first baby of 2018, born of Muslim parents, which had garnered 20,000 messages of support after a rash of racist comments”:

News and Analysis (1/4/18)

January 4th, 2018

“Afghan and Indian officials applauded Trump’s abrasive comments, but Pakistan’s foreign minister called them a political stunt for domestic consumption, while its foreign office summoned the U.S. ambassador in protest”:

The causes for the Iranian protests are complex, but economic factors seem to be paramount; …

… the international reaction has been mixed, “with Europeans expressing unease at the delighted reaction by U.S. and Israeli leaders,” while “prominent Iranian lawyers … urged Tehran to respect … freedom of assembly and expression;” …

… but “the pressure for reform that keeps building within Iran will never be vented without a transition to a freer society”:

The princess accuses the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice of turning a blind eye to “underage girls … exploited for noisy sex parties involving drug and alcohol abuse”:

Other cases of “Moral policing … include assaults on women for going to bars, attacks on students at a house party, and the beating of a Muslim man for speaking to his Hindu colleague”:

“[T]hreat of harassment, arrest, fines, and suspension – as well as … pressure from advertisers close to the monarchy – has stifled coverage of the government and of citizen protests, including the mostly peaceful demonstrations”:

“[S]peaking out in support of journalists and others who run afoul of the authorities is more the exception than the rule” in Myanmar where reporting on the genocide of the Rohingya will get you prosecuted for “treason”:

The “Muslim women’s rights group … trained these women as qazis … [and] runs empowerment training sessions for women and girls, holds support groups for boys and men, and leads arbitration sessions where family disputes are settled”:

A court in Manhattan convicts a Turkish banker of violating sanctions against Iran. Does this mean that a court in Istanbul can now convict an  American banker of violating sanctions against Israel?

News and Analysis (1/1/18)

January 1st, 2018

Cheered on by Israel’s intelligence minister, anti-government protesters continue demonstrations in Iran in defiance of a warning by the authorities of a tough crackdown …

… but if they were instigated  by hardliners hoping to embarrass Rouhani they may  have quickly gotten out of control, taken over by economically aggrieved people with neither affection for the Islamic republic nor hope of reform:

She won’t win the election  but she may prevent Putin from getting “his traditional 146 percent from the republic” of Dagestan:

The fatwa encouraging Muslims to inquire after and care for “their non-Muslim neighbors … comes as part of an awareness campaign launched by the center to show solidarity with our Christian brothers during their feasts”:

The government wants “refugees who have formal agreements with refugee resettlement agencies” excluded from the definition of”refugees who have a bona fide relationship with people or entities in the United States”:

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan threatens to “promote the recognition of our sovereignty of the Jewish settlements in” the West Bank:

Although “Israeli forces … have left at least a dozen Palestinians dead and hundreds injured … religious scholars remain dedicated to non-violent strategies for securing rights and security for both Israelis and Palestinians”:

A $10 million reward offer never produced “information leading to [a] conviction over the Mumbai attacks, [yet Washington] warned Islamabad of repercussions after a Pakistani court in late November released him from house arrest”:

A Hindu woman “slammed the police for harassing her and her friend and claimed that it was solely because her friend was a Muslim”:

A man “dressed up in a shark costume … fell foul of … [Austria’s] anti-burka law,” prompting one Muslim woman to suggest the common voice uncovered by the #MeToo movement be extended to “to women who are different to us”: