July 1, 2015

News and Analysis (7/1/15)

The irony! A 26-year-old Muslim woman and a religious seminary allied to ISIS argue “for the right of young women to choose their occupation … [while her] father and his young attorneys” argue that the unmarried woman must “return to her father’s custody, since he is, under Islamic law, her legal guardian”:

“This is not the war between Islam and the West…. It is a generational struggle between a minority of extremists, who want hatred to flourish, and the rest of us, who want freedom to prosper” PM says, but still advocates anti-radicalization strategies that might alienate British Muslims:

Among the benefits of a nuclear deal with Iran are: it will push for democracy in Iran; it will give the US more alternatives, and less dependence on Saudi Arabia, in the region:

“Neglecting the pluralistic message of the Quran has allowed fringe groups to use anachronistic stereotypes about fellow Muslims, people of other faiths and entire nation-states, to unleash a form of violence rooted in extreme interpretations of Islamic eschatology (the study of end-of-time)”:

After eight years of hunger strike, and already cleared for releaseTariq Ba Odah is held in Guantanamo, force-fed every day and confined in solitary. All this despite month-long protests from human rights activists and his lawyer:

“It’s my favorite time of the year, because it really does help set me on a track for the rest of the year,” said Congressman Keith Ellison, who has observed that animosity towards Islam on Capitol Hill “has largely faded. Now, lawmakers are growing accustomed to having some Muslim colleagues”:

“My friends and I are all about everyone coexisting — whether it’s your sexuality, religion, or race — we’re all human beings and we all deserve to live without fear” says organizer of the love-in that aimed to show support to the Muslim man who had been victim of a hate crime:

Violence in Egypt is escalating, as Islamic militants kill at least 53 in Sinai, Daniel Nisman (Levantine Group risk consultancy) calls the attack, for which the so-called “Islamic State” has taken credit “by far the worst we’ve ever seen”:

The background of Tunisian terrorist shows the difficulties in tracking radicalization…. “We didn’t see anything strange about him. He was a good and assiduous student”, Ben Elgharat says:

June 30, 2015

News and Analysis (6/30/15)

With atrocities being committed by Muslims against other Muslims, Nazir Afzal argues that Muslim communities need to change their attitudes and leadership to better reflect the communities, arguing “We need more women’s and young people’s voices to be heard” …

… such as the Muslim Women’s Council, which speaks out against ISIL, saying “There is absolutely nothing Islamic about IS” …

… and the teenage Nobel-winning advocate for female education who says, “If you want to change society – if you want to see change – you must step forward to bring change,” and who believes extremism happens when “people are not allowed to interpret the Qur’an in their own way”:

The AKP is deepening the divide between religious feminists and their secular counterparts. “This isn’t a problem with Islam,” Nebiye Ari says, “Islam has been interpreted by men for their own gains since the death of the prophet. We are looking for interpretations where women have more rights”:

“More should be done to convey how the story of Prophet Mohammed is also one of cooperation between the faiths, of compromise over battle and of constantly seeking peace and justice”:

The Shariah has no “position on homosexual desire” but defines marriage as “a contract … between a man and a woman.” Yet “many Muslims are willing to support the rights of other Americans to shape marriage according to their particular beliefs” expecting “their beliefs and relationships to be respected in return”:

Many expect that the recent death of general prosecutor Barakat and nine others will lead to more violence in Egypt – both by the government and Islamist militants:

The chaos created in Libya by Western intervention continues to flow over the border, now into Tunisia:

Conflict resolution analyst Ibrahim Sharqieh Frehat discusses the US role in the power struggle between ISIL and Al-Qaeda in Yemen. “The problem with the Americans is that they deal with the problems with the same tools – bombings. Weakening AQAP will only give way to Daesh to be born”:

The Israeli government plans to take over the church-run schools that educate Muslims and Christians, as a solution for slashing subsidies. This will likely deprive the Palestinian students of their educational freedom:

 

June 29, 2015

News and Analysis (6/29/15)

Guardian connects Islam’s notion of hospitality with the behavior of Tunisians during the attack on Friday, calling “The terrorists’ version of Islam is a twisted distortion” …

… And David Cameron urges BBC to stop using the phrase Islamic State, but instead ISIL or “so called Islamic State”, since the organization is a “perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words”:

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May wants family members to turn each other in when suspecting radicalization, possibly furthering the alienation of British Muslims…

… Muslim graves have been damaged after the Tunisia attack, seemingly to create a divide in the community:

In Wales, a group of teachers choose to fast with their Muslim students; “Seeing the efforts they make to study while doing Ramadan, we wanted to show we empathise and … that there is community support … here,” says Welsh teacher Mr. Bodgin:

A Greek Orthodox Archbishop who earned Israeli wrath for speaking out against suppression of Christian and Muslim religious freedom  has now been arrested for demonstrating against Israel’s seizure of his church’s hospital:

William Astore calls for the US government to quit its addiction to war, whether it be the war on terror or poverty; “There’s simply no way to win such a war except by stopping it”:

ISIL-allied group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for the killing of Egypt’s State Prosecutor:

Muslim terrorists claim to fight injustice and occupation of Muslim lands, but a-Arabiya editor Faisal Abbas asks, “[H]ow many of these grievances, while legitimate, have been solved by terrorism? If anything, the likes of ISIS and al Qaeda has made these causes worse and much more complicated to resolve”:

 

June 28, 2015

News and Analysis (6/28/15)

With death toll mounting in the case of the Tunisan breakdancer-turned-terrorist, his family reacts with horror and locals demonstrate in protest while the government searches for “indirect” participants and Tunisia’s PM threatens to crack down on freedom of speech and religion by shutting down 80 mosques:

“Observers said Mr Zarif probably needed to seek guidance over a stumbling block in negotiations – how much access Tehran will grant to nuclear monitors”, but a “US official – who spoke on condition of anonymity – insisted there would be no long-term extension” …

… “In moves not dissimilar to the Republicans in the US Senate, the faction known as Paidary (persistence) Front, has tabled several motions to try to give parliament the power to challenge a final deal. None has been successful” …

Iran expert Trita Parsi says that while the exact timing of the sanctions relief is yet to be resolved, “at best it will begin a few months after the adoption of the deal … [as] reflected by President Hassan Rouhani’s statement earlier in June“:

Kuwait “detained the driver of the vehicle that took him to a Shi’ite Muslim mosque where he killed 27 people. The disclosure of the bomber’s Saudi nationality is likely to focus the attention of authorities … on ties between Islamists in the small Gulf state and those in its larger, more conservative neighbor”:

“[O]rganizers said they had been refused permission to march this year because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan” prompting Lady Gaga to call “on authorities to ‘set an example for people to celebrate both Ramadan and pride in peace, instead of dividing with violence'”:

 

June 25, 2015

News and Analysis (6/25/15)

“[T]here’s nothing inherently liberating in covering up, just as there’s nothing inherently liberating in wearing next to nothing. But the liberation lies in the choice.” With the growing fear of hijab wearing women in Western societies, Hanna Yusuf’s video is refreshing …

… as is the beauty competition established by a former TV reporter fired for refusing “to remove her hijab on screen,” celebrating “style and elegance along with religious piety, development of humanitarian intelligence and strength of character. Prizes include everything from pilgrimage trips to scholarships”:

The Israeli government’s destruction of Palestinian homes represent the larger problem of current Israeli policies; it is not just an issue of occupation, but also of the treatment of Arab Israeli citizens:

With a record high number of journalists now jailed in Egypt – an accusation fiercely denied by the government …

… the government is exacerbating its crackdown on free speech with an announcement that “[b]ooks or digital material that disagree with ‘the leniency of Islam,’ will be [purged] and [confiscated]” …

… but an Irish imam expressing “deep concern and opposition to the criminalising of theological disagreement,” asserts a “duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others”:

“Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, claim the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is violating their First Amendment right to free speech….  The two are not challenging the MTA’s ability to enact policies, but instead are arguing that their advertisements are not political and do not violate the policy”:

A critic of the UK programs to prevent radicalization at universities, Dr. Chris Allen argues that the signs university officials are supposed to look for to prevent radicalization are “mere code for becoming ‘more Muslim'” …

… while in the U.S., writer Christian Piatt argues, “Terrorism always has a complex combination of sources for its diabolical inspiration.  Unfortunately, we’re far more willing to point the finger at the multitude of problems abroad, rather than … exorcising similar demons from our … own communities”:

June 24, 2015

News and Analysis (6/24/15)

“Spoofing religious excess, hypocrisy and prejudice has been a staple of the show’s narrative. While ‘The Simpsons’ never hesitates to mock, its biting humor is intelligent rather than crude, informed by understanding rather than ignorance, and never characterized by meanness and denigration:

Contrary to public belief – since 9/11, right-wing extremists’ attacks have caused more deaths than Muslim terrorists in the US …

… And yet, in Britain, a “Pakistani politician and Sufi Islamic scholar” calls for state-dictated anti-radicalization lessons to be compulsory only for Muslim students:

“[T]he scaremongering that has accompanied ISIL’s emergence in Libya continues to obscure the bigger issue: Libya is a morass of competing groups […] Unless these groups come together and reach a genuine political compromise, Libya will remain held hostage, locked in a vicious cycle of violence and destruction”

After World War II, there were still a number of prosperous places with open immigration policies, especially for Europeans [including] Australia…. But the 21st century has brought far tighter borders, and strong anti-immigrant sentiment…. It doesn’t help that today’s refugees are far darker-skinned”:

“[P]ortrayals of us have ranged from ‘oppressed lady’ to ‘even more oppressed lady'” but there have been many women heads-of-state of Muslim-majority nations in recent decades, while the number of women heads of state of the U.S. so far has been — let us think a minute — oh yes, ZERO:

June 23, 2015

Abdul Hadi and the Leotard – A Look at the Media Coverage

At the Southeast Asian Games of 2015, 21-year-old gold medalist Muslim Farah Ann Abdul Hadi from Malaysia was wearing a leotard. For this, she received criticism from, among others, mufti Harussani Zakaria, for not complying with received standards of modest dress according to Muslim jurisprudence. Abdul Hadi also received support from Malaysia’s minister for youth and sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, and several Western media outlets for her stunning athletic ability and performance. All this was to be expected. But how did media portray the incident? It is clear that the perspective on their news story is a Western perspective. Western news media is condemning the Muslims for criticizing Abdul Hadi’s choice of attire, with no respect for the norms of other cultures as to proper dress. It is almost as if they didn’t know, or perhaps it would be more fair to say do not care about the role of culture in determining the where the line is drawn for “appropriate dressing.”

What seems to be the problem for the Muslims criticizing Abdul Hadi is that the leotard is revealing Abdul Hadi’s aurat (the parts of a person that should not be revealed in public). Therefore they are speaking out against Abdul Hadi, as a Muslim woman, showing this at the Southest Asian Games. Australian News writes: “Not that the country’s religious hardliners noticed the impressive tally – they were too busy looking at the 21-year-old’s vagina.”

Outline of her vagina would be more precise, but we get the point. Valid as the Australian news outlet’s point may seem, they have forgotten that their own culture and society, like all cultures and societies, has norms and rules that govern the way we dress and affect their own notions of decency. For example: not only would it be frowned upon, it would also be illegal for any gymnasts to appear completely naked, or for any woman to unveil her chest, in the Southeast Asian Games. To put this in an American perspective: not only would religious leaders most likely condemn a bare-breasted gymnast, but so would news anchors and other officials. Remember Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction? Is there an objective, inherent moral argument to draw the line between bearing one’s breast and revealing one’s thighs and the shape of one’s vagina? Rather being a clear moral issue, this is an issue of cultural difference – of different degrees of nakedness permitted in different societies.

This brings the discussion back to another thing written in News: “The head of the National Muslim Youth Association’s female wing, Roszida Kamaruddin, also released a statement condemning Abdul Hadi’s costume. ‘Women should not be stopped from sports, but they must prioritise the Islamic codes in sports attire,’ she said.” Notice the use of the word condemning when talking about Kamaruddin’s statement. Then imagine, if an American woman would appear naked at a gymnastics competition and an American counterpart to Kamaruddin would give a similar statement: “Women should not be stopped from sports, but they must prioritize the norms in sports attire”. The likelihood of an American counterpart issuing a statement like this seems great. Yet, it would not be seen as her condemning the clothes, merely pointing out what everyone who supports the norms of that society is thinking.

Thus, what News, The Independent, and other news outlets do is report yet another news story in a manner that makes the Muslim community more misogynistic and intolerant than themselves. Just because the Islamic guidelines differ from the Western norms, it does not mean that the Western norms are liberating women and the Islamic guidelines are not – they rather differ in terms of degree of coverage they deem appropriate to the dignity of a woman. Still it would be fair to ask why so many Muslims are more obsessed with the dignity of women than they are of men. As Malaysia’s minister of sports put it: “I think this whole incident also smacks of sexism. Nobody has complained about… kinky Speedos, or Sazali (Samad) wearing tight shorts when he flexes his muscles but when it comes to gymnasts, suddenly it’s a big problem.

A more fruitful debate would have been to ask the general question of to what degree should and can government regulate nudity/modesty. A libertarian could argue that that the it should be legal both to be completely naked and to reveal one’s aurat in this kind of competition, as long as individuals were allowed to follow their own religion, customs, or personal opinions.

Of course Westerners are not the only ones wearing cultural blinders. On the Muslim side of the aisle we have the case of Jean-Baptiste Michalon, a Muslim grocer who was shocked, shocked, at the anger he provoked by posting a sign inviting female customers to shop on different days from male customers. He did not realize that such an invitation was illegal in France, punishable by a 25,000 Euro fine. He quickly removed the sign, yet marveled, “I’m shocked that I have been accused of discrimination. After all, hammams (steam baths) have different times for men and women.” Well, Jean-Baptiste, when in Rome, or in this case Bordeaux, do as the Romans, we mean the French, do.

By the same token, when in Kuala Lampur, do as the Malay do. As we were saying, to fix the debate in a framework that presumes that anyone who differs one particular culturally set standard of modesty is intolerant is a logical fallacy. It is telling that no one is calling for the athletes to compete completely naked, as was the practice in the original olympics games in ancient Greece; that was another culture.

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

News and Analysis (6/23/15)

Some of the most brutal regimes in the Middle East have been secular, while some Islamic parties have been promoting democracy, rather the “struggles are between progressive democratic visions … and authoritarianism, whether secularist or religious”:

A story that ISIS hanged two teenagers for eating during Ramadan – a month of altruism and spiritual purification – is corrected to state the boys were hung from a beam by their wrists, while rumors that the terrorist state has ordered female genital mutilation appears to be baseless propaganda:

While 60 million people are displaced worldwide, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments are increasing in EU, now taking further steps towards toughening its boarder controls as well as deporting more refugees:

Myanmar’s prosecution against Muslims continues, with a group of powerful Buddhist monks now proposing a ban on hijab for school girls, likely resulting in depriving Muslim girls of their education:

Zehra Naqvi on interfaith conversations between American Muslims and Jews, and why it is important:

The dual standard of treating the violence of white supremacists as individual acts of evil or insanity while treating violence by often dark-skinned Muslims as a manifestation of religiously or ideologically motivated zealotry is in-itself racist:

The coincidence of Ramadan with Gay Pride month sees Wazina Zondon promoting her performance project, ‘Coming Out Muslim’, and professing, “Violence against sexual and gender minorities is not aligned with the Prophet’s example of love and tolerance in community”:

“Muhuri says it was placed on ‘terror suspect list’ after Garissa attacks because of its work exposing abuses by security forces”:

June 22, 2015

News and analysis (6/22/15)

Earlier the devout Muslim teenager “had organized and participated in scores of protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad…. After the IS takeover[,] horrified by the group’s approach to the faith, its draconian dictates, and its rules prohibiting girls from studying,” she “formed this small team to fight IS”:

After “a rebuke from the Islamic affairs ministry” the hot-headed Saudi preacher has apologized, but the comedian still faces “IS supporters on social media, with some literally calling for his head.” He says, “[I]t is the duty of artists to reveal the truth – even if they have to pay a price for doing so”:

Deeyah Khan aims to explain why British women join ISIS… “[a] great deal of racist violence is […] directed at Muslim women, who are more visible than men. This can leave women isolated and fearful; hyper-aware of their identity, which marks them out for hostility” …

… yet PM David Cameron continues to isolate Muslims from the rest of the society by connecting Islam with terrorism …

… and the struggle for Muslims in Dewsbury, England, against marginalization continues:

Former President Morsi’s trial is postponed and the regimes’ Protest Law, banning all protests with more than five people without prior permission, is challenged by protesters:

“Ahmed Mansour, one of Jazeera’s best-known journalists, was released after Egypt was unable to dispel concerns about the extradition process, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.” This came after an earlier foreign ministry statement against extradition to any country to face a death sentence”:

Sultan Hamengkubuwono X takes steps towards changing the succession order, enabling his daughter to become the next sultan. Conservatives dislike the idea for opening up the position for women; progressives accuse him of only trying to keep power in the family:

June 21, 2015

News and Analysis (6/21/15)

“[S]pecifics of the ban have extended well beyond fasting and into the other religious activities associated with Ramadan.” Among the orders to students: “[D]o not fast, do not enter mosques … and do not attend religious activities”:

Egypt’s military dictatorship extends it crackdown on the free press into Germany:

“There’s a lot of crazy people in the world. My advice … to the general public and good people of the world: Just ignore it….  [I]n the Quran, … God almighty … tells us when the ignorant people want … to argue with you or address you, just tell them ‘peace'” — president of the Colorado Muslim Society:

With new leaks piling on top of an earlier revelation of Gulf state collusion with Israel, the Saudis tell their citizens to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain …

… as “[d]iplomatic documents published by WikiLeaks Friday give a snapshot of the lavish spending habits of senior Saudi royals and the political intrigue percolating across the Middle East” …

… “One of the most inflammatory memos carries the claim that Gulf countries were prepared to pay $10 billion to secure the freedom of … Mubarak … saying that the Muslim Brotherhood would agree to release Mubarak in exchange for the cash “since the Egyptian people will not benefit from his imprisonment”:

It is only because the killer was not a Muslim that “many observers say that the actions of Mr. Roof immediately fell into a very different cultural lens: the disaffected white loner, perhaps mentally ill, isolated from the community. In other words: a cultural aberration”:

“Shahindokht Molaverdi denounces men whose violent threats prevented women getting into Iran match against the US as … ‘sanctimonious people … denouncing the modest and decent girls and women of this land’ who ‘used obscene and disgusting insults that only befit themselves”:

The Madras High Court in India permits Hindus to convert to Islam, but not to escape from the caste system:

“[I]t did do us some damage. I supported the invasion. We didn’t find weapons of mass destruction there and that was the basis by which we went in. so on that basis, we weren’t right to go in”:

The mines may have been planted “to deter government forces from advancing towards the city, also known as Tadmur”:

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