Archive for the ‘Q&A’ Category

American Muslim “Silence” on Anti-Muslim “Cartoons”

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Posed by Gayath Nur Kashif on “A Place for Truth” listserve

Q. [There has been]  growing  anger and calls for  economic boycotts by  Muslims states over the outrageous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] recently published in the Danish Press. Will  US Muslims follow in issuing a condemnation, and/or urging  US officials to condemn such attacks against Islam? What would be the rationale for any action, or non action contemplated or taken?

A. American Muslims, no less than Muslims abroad, condemn the disrespectful tone, the libelous intent, and above all the ignorance demonstrated by the cartoons published in the Danish press. However, it is not the place of U.S. officials to comment on what Danish newspapers choose to do. Muslims can and should boycott the newspapers that print such garbage, but the U.S. government does not support those newspapers and what they publish is not the American government’s business. Further, those Muslims who are engaged in a secondary boycott against all Danish businesses are guilty of the same sort of collectivist discrimination enaged in by those Americans who blame all Muslims for Sept. 11. Muslims in France or Egypt might call for the Danish government to threaten the newspaper in question because government censorship is a way of life in those countries. Censorship is not part of American culture and therefore only those Muslims who oppose free speech in America should ask the Danish government to engage in censorship. But if they succeed in eroding free speech in America, let them understand that they shall be the first to be suppressed.

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

Are American Schools Forcing Children to Engage in Muslim Rituals?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Posed by Marshall Fritz

Q. Is there another side to the story about this 9th circuit court decision dismissing constitutionality concerns over a Byron Union School District, in Byron, Calif. program that required students to pretend that they are Muslims?

A. In the past there have been numerous false allegations of government schools forcing children to play-act at being Muslims under the cover of teaching world culture or religion. These allegations have usually been blatantly false. An amicus brief filed by the CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION and NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION suggests that the case of US 9th Circuit re Byron, Calif School Unit on Islam may be different. Although the circuit court ruling is unpublished, by overturning the lower court, it appears as if the circuit court may be saying that forcing non-Muslim students to imitate Muslim ritual is not a violation of the students’ (or at least the parents’) freedom of religion is because the students are only play-acting a fantasy. In other words, the religious innocuousness of the act is predicated on the presumed REJECTION of the act’s religious significance. This is not Muslims imposing their will on Christians, it is secularists making a mockery of religious ritual per se.

If I am correct, then it seems to me that the plaintiffs doomed their own case by erroneously presenting it as a matter of the school imposing Islam on the students. The school, which rejects all religion, is not exalting Islam above Christianity but demeaning both. Had the plaintiffs used that approach they might have won. Instead they asked the court to address a narrow question: Was the school trying to turn the students into Muslims? It is no surprise that the court answered no. To the degree that that the government school system has any religious purpose it is to secularize the students.

Perhaps now some Muslim group should sue the school using the correct argument. If not, then maybe some Hindu group will sue the schools when they start forcing Muslim children to insincerely profess their adoration of Krishna.

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

What Does Islam Teach About Apostasy?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Andy Derkson asks:
Does Islam teach and support freedom of conscience, so that if a Muslim decides to convert to another religion, he is free to do so without fear of reprisal?

The case in point is the claim that apostasy is punishable by death. Non-Muslims must be excused for believing this, when so many Muslims (most recently including the Afghani professor of law quoted in the Washington Post, “For Afghans, Allies, A Clash of Values”) have made assertions to that effect. Non-Muslims are not in the position to appreciate, as Muslims should, that legal opinions based on debatable interpretations of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) cannot abrogate the teachings of the Qur’an that are clear and unambiguous upon the following relevant points: (1) that a person’s choice of religion can not be coerced and that (“Let there be no compulsion in religion….” 2:256) and (2) capital punishment applies only to acts of murder or waging war against society (e.g., terrorism, “… if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people…” (5:32).

Without doubt renegades who abandoned Islam to join the enemy forces in war against the Muslims were punished by early generations of Muslims with the death penalty, as those engaged in treason have been subject to the death penalty throughout history around the world. Treason, however, is distinct from mere conversion. According to the BBC, Abdul Rahman’s response to the charges against him was, “I am not an infidel or a fugitive. I am a Christian.” His conversion is not subject to hudûd punishments. As Muslims, by definition, believe that the Qur’an is the word of God, we must submit to the Qur’anic commandment, “Leave Me alone (to deal) with the creature I created (bare and) alone” (74:11).

The recent call for the release of Abdul Rahman by the Council on American Islamic Relations citing the opinion of the Fiqh Council of North America (an association Islamic legal scholars) is a welcome sign that Muslims may be ready to challenge intemperate rulings born out of historical periods of conflict to return to the recognition that our belief that “there is no god but God” has as its corollary that no one has the right to interpose himself between the individual and his Creator in matters of belief.

Minaret of Freedom Institute president Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is one of 100 prominent Muslims who have affirmed “The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith” in Islam. They have signed a proclamation that “In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy, the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy; thus there ought not to be any punishment in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.” Dr. Ahmad notes that to argue that the fact that most traditional jurisprudents have taken the position that conversion is a capital crime makes such a position part of shariah is as faulty as claiming that as most Western philosophers and legal scholars denied equal rights to non-white races makes racial inequality part of natural law. It is rather an error that members of particular schools are now working to correct. For example, the Hanafi scholar Shah Abdul Hanan, a member of the Editorial Board of Bidhiboddho Islami Ain (Codified Islamic Law) published by Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh writes, “On this issue of punishment of apostasy I hold the same view as that of Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Hashim Kamali, Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman and such scholars. Those who are familiar with my activities have seen how I have forwarded all the articles/interviews of scholars who hold that apostasy has no punishment unless in conjunction with rebellion or violence.”

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Are Men and Women Equal in Islam?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Andy Derksen asks: Are men and women considered equal in Islam?

Absolutely men and women are considered equal in Islam. Several Qur’an verses (the ultimate authority for Muslims) emphasize this point:

“And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another:…’ (3:195)

“If any do deeds of righteousness, — be they male or female — and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (4:124)

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.” (33:35)

“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.” (9:71)

Some point to disproportionate inheritance laws as justification of the inequality of men and women in Islam; however, the context is that Islam has overthrown Arab tradition by giving women a share of the inheritance. The share of men is in some cases larger because they are required to spend part of their share in support of women. The point of the verse is it is only fair that men support women from their bigger share of the inheritance.  (Not to mention that in modern America married men earn almost double the wages of married women in similar positions.)  The woman’s share, though smaller (though not in all cases), belongs totally to the woman and she is not required to support men out of it.  Some scholars have interpreted the “more” given to men as more strength than women. This ignores the context of inheritance, but perhaps they have a point and the Qur’an may be subtly alluding to the broader context of the social relationships between men and women that have been the case in every society in history. But in no case does this verse in any way imply any spiritual superiority of men over women whatsoever. Nor can such an interpretation be defended. (1) It is against the simple meaning of the text; (2) it is violates the context; (3) it contradicts the numerous other verses in the Qur’an insisting on the spiritual equality of men and women (as in 33:35 quoted above). Indeed, the opening verse of the surah named “Women” exalts the status of women demanding: “Revere the wombs that bore you” (4:1).

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Some Questions on Women

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Reader Christina Tucholski posed a series of interesting questions on women which we reprint here with our answers.

Q. Ibn Warraq, Muslim critic and author of Why I Am Not a Muslim, stated that, “Islam has always considered women as creatures inferior in every way: physically, intellectually, and morally.” He uses the following verse from the Koran to support his opinion, “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other” (4.34). How would you defend Islam against people such as Warraq?

A. Ibn Warraq, by his own account, is NOT a Muslim. On this issue he is also completely wrong. Let us begin with his mistranslation of the Qur’anic verse fragment. First let us note the context. It follows the verse saying that all near relations (in other words, women as well as men) are entitled to a share in the inheritance and immediately precedes the verse urging arbitration between husbands and wives who are on the verge of a breakup. The literal meaning of the text is:  “The men caretakers over the women in that gifted God more some of them over some and in that they (masc.) support them (fem.) from their (masc.) wealth.”   Putting this into correct English syntax it reads: “Men are maintainers of women because God has given the one more than the other.” Recall now that the context is inheritance law and Islam has overthrown Arab tradition by giving women a share of the inheritance. The verse is explaining the principle of equity behind requiring men to support women out of their share. God is saying it is only fair that men support women since they have been given a bigger share of the inheritance under Islamic law.  (Not to mention that in modern America married men earn almost double the wages of married women in similar positions.)  The woman’s share, though smaller (though not in all cases) belongs totally to the woman and she is not required to support men out of it.  Some scholars have interpreted the “more” given to men as more strength than women. This ignores the context of inheritance, but perhaps they are correct in that the Qur’an may be subtly alluding to this as part of the broader context of the social relationships between men and women that have been the case in every society in history. But in no case does this verse in any way imply any spiritual superiority of men over women whatsoever. Nor can such an interpretation be defended. (1) It is against the simple meaning of the text; (2) it is violates the context; (3) it contradicts the numerous other verses in the Qur’an insisting on the spiritual equality of men and women. E.g. 33:35: “For Muslim men and women for believing men and women for devout men and women for true men and women for men and women who are patient and constant for men and women who humble themselves for men and women who give in charity for men and women who fast (and deny themselves) for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.” Indeed, the opening verse of the surah in question exalts the status of women demanding: “Revere the wombs that bore you.”

Q. The famous Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali defined the woman’s role as follows: “She should stay at home and get on with her spinning, she should no go out often, she must not be well-informed…She should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs at any moment.” (Hurley 87) Is this true of today’s Islamic faith?

A. First, in fairness to al-Ghazzali, he also demands that men meet the sexual needs of their wives. Nonetheless, it is proper to criticize the “women should stay at home” attitude reflected in your quote. (Who is Hurley? What exactly is the citation you are making?) Anyone who makes such a statement as Hurley attributes to al-Ghazali deserves criticism, for this was not the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For a scholarly discussion of al-Ghazali’s views see http://us.geocities.com/ta3leqa1/algatheory.html, but views of the Islamist movement today are better represented by Zaynab al-Ghazali who headed the women’s division of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood under its founder Hassan al-Banna.  She wrote that  “Islam has provided everything for both men and women. It gave women everything–freedom, economic rights, political rights, social rights, public and private rights. Islam gave women rights in the family granted by no other society. Women may talk of liberation in Christian society, Jewish society, or pagan society, but in Islamic society it is a grave error to speak of the liberation of women. The Muslim woman must study Islam so she will know that it is Islam that has given her all her rights.” You can read more about her jihad to establish women’s Islamic rights to a place in public life in contravention of a secular Egyptian society that had been forced in to the Victorian mold that held a woman’s place is in the home by its British colonial occupiers at: http://www.jannah.org/sisters/zaynab.html

Q. For those who justify burkas and oppressive laws on women by stating it is to keep men’s thoughts pure, why is it that men do not also need to wear these clothes to keep women’s thoughts pure?

A. This seems like a trick question. Since those men to whom you refer won’t let women leave the house, what opportunity would homebound women have to see men? But in fairness, those men cover their own bodies almost as much as they would cover the women’s. They wear long flowing outer garments, cover their hair, and hide their own face behind a long beard. The oppressive laws they advocate are aimed at segregation of men and women and thus may be considered evenhanded in their suspicion of the sexual drive. Such laws should be opposed because they are oppressive and not on the debatable premise that they are predicated on any spiritual inferiority of women.

Q. Does the U.S. or U.N. have the right to intervene internationally in countries where women’s rights are disregarded?

A. No nation has a right to intervene into the internal affairs of other nations. The United States is no exception.  When nations join the United Nations they agree to adhere to certain standards of human rights.  Should they fail to abide by these standards, complaints may be lodged against them and dealt with in accordance with the standards to which they have subscribed according to a process outlined at  http://www.droitshumains.org/uni/Formation/Images/spdh_a.pdf.

Attacks on Christians and Shi`a Muslims

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Some time ago, following our condemnation of an attack on a Pakistani church, Sajjad Rizvi asked, “For the sake of consistency and also to better inform the public, would you also mention the murder in cold blood of 14 Shi`a Muslims murdered while they were praying only a week prior to the church killings in Rawalpindi Islamabad area of Pakistan. The point is that there are murderers and terrorists out there who are committing cold blooded acts of brutality against all faiths and humanity and its not a question of Muslim versus Christians.”

As we are not a news site, we make no attempt to track every atrocity done by every religious denomination. Nonetheless, the recent sectarian violence in Iraq reinforces the answer we gave to the original question: All such brutality against innocents whether it is done by or to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Shi`a, or Sunni deserves strong condemnation and swift justice. The Qur’an warns: “…Did not God check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily God is Full of Strength Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will).” (22:40, A. Yusuf Ali, trans.)

Would Extremists Accept a “Hudna?”

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

Commenting that Ahmed Yousef’s suggestion in the NY Times for a “hudna” (more than a cease fire, less than a permanent peace treaty) between the Palestinians and the Israelis makes sense, Gordon Johnson asks whether the extremists would be willing to consider it. He quotes a remark by the deposed prime minister of Somalia implying the impossibility of convincing extremists “Not to be extremists.”

Asking if you can talk an extremist out of being an extremist is dealing with labels instead of with realities. The reality of the hudna is (1) it was the practice of the Prophet and (2) the Qur’an commands “If the enemy inclines towards peace then do you incline towards peace and trust in God for He is the one that hears and knows all things (8:61). The extremists of the Prophet’s day didn’t like it when he established the hudna with the Quraish, but they had to accept it. Of course, some modern extremists may be more wiling to rebel against the Hamas leadership than 7th century extremists were willing to rebel against the Prophet, but wouldn’t their rebellion alienate them from the majority and wouldn’t that alienation be a good thing? I sincerely believe that we are not in a war between civilizations but in a war WITHIN civilizations. In that war those who propose a hudna are allied with us and those who would resist it are allied with those Western extremists who mistake prudence for treason.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad