Archive for December, 2006

Reflections on the Execution of Saddam Hussein

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

I am not among those who shed tears on the execution of the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein. The world is better off without that champion of secularism and socialism who proved his credentials by the wholesale slaughter of religious Muslims and the destruction of freedom of trade in his country. If God treats him as he deserves, then he deserves it, and if he treats him with mercy, He is the most merciful. Yet, I am haunted by questions about the Iraqi government’s decision to execute him at just this moment in time.

Why was he executed on the Eid al Adha, the high holy day of Islam when Iraqi law had given it thirty days from which to choose? Why was he punished for the slaughter of 148 men and boys he had accused of conspiring to assassinate him, without waiting for a verdict on the even more appalling charges of murdering men, women and children in acts of ethnic cleansing merely for being Kurds or Shi`a?

What message did the government of Iraq wish to convey to the world? Was it to prove to the world that Muslims have not a mustard seed of mercy, not even enough to let the condemned man’s death be postponed until after the three-day holiday? (I doubt that even Texas, the state that executes more people than any other, executes murderers on Christmas.) Or was it, as Robert Fiske charges, to prevent the trial of Saddam on the more serious charges from revealing to the world just who provided him with the poison gas with which he did the dirty deeds? Or was it meant as some dark parody of the Eid holiday? Did the Iraqi government, perverting Prophet Abraham’s (pbuh) devotion to God (Exalted and Supreme) in which he offered his beloved and pure son (pbuh) in sacrifice to the One true God, offer up its son—a despised and violent son, yet nonetheless a son of its soil—in sacrifice to a false god? And, unlike the merciful God who substituted a lamb for the proffered son of Abraham, would this false god worshipped by the Iraqi government accept no substitutes and no delay, but wanted the blood of this man on this holy day that the government of Iraq might declare to the world that it would on this day honor not Abraham’s God, but some other power to which it had offered a partnership in divinity? I do not know the answers to these questions, but they haunt me and I am compelled to ask.

 

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

www.minaret.org

The Feast of the Sacrifice is Also About Life, Liberty, and Love

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Eid mubarak sa’id! A blessed and happy “Feast of the Sacrifice” to all.

This is the high holy day of Islam. It celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God and God’s mercy in prohibiting human sacrifice and substituting instead the sacrifice of an animal whose flesh is to feed both the celebrants and their poor and needy neighbors. The story of Abraham’s sacrifice in the Qur’an is similar to that in the Bible, but it differs in a few respects, one of which will be of special interest to libertarians and human rights activists.

In the biblical version, Abraham (pbuh) tricks his son into participating in the sacrifice, and then binds him to force him to participate against his will:

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Gensis 7-12)

In the Qur’anic version, where the son is not named (see below), Abraham asks his son’s consent:

Then when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if God so wills, one practicing Patience and Constancy!”

So when they had both submitted their wills (to God) and He had laid Him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice) We called out to him “O Abraham! “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. (37:102-107)

Thus, the Qur’an emphasizes three very important points: (1) that the son is of a mature enough age to decide whether to participate in this sacrifice; (2) that the father has no intention of forcing the son against his will; and that (3) God does not demand a human sacrifice, he only wants to know that both son and father value the Creator above the creation, that is the father above the life of his son and the son above his own life. Thus, the story is not only about sacrifice, but about life, liberty, and love.

Tellingly, non-Muslim commentators on the differences between the Qur’anic and biblical versions rarely mention these critical differences. Instead they devote a great deal of ink on the fact that the Bible claims the son is Isaac (pbuh) rather than Ishmael (pbuh). The Qur’an doesn’t mention the name of the son, since that is irrelevant to the moral point of the story. The story is powerful not because of the name of the son, but because it is Abraham’s ONLY son. Since there was a time when Ishmael was the only son and no time when Isaac was the only son, logic dictates that the son be Ishmael. Trying to get around this by arguing that Ishmael was illegitimate is insulting to the Prophet Abraham (pbuh). Making a big deal over the question of the son’s name drags down a profound story about love and sacrifice into a claim in a land dispute.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

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.

News and Analysis (12/29/06)

Friday, December 29th, 2006

More ambitious than self-proclaimed “dictators for life,” Ali Mohmed Gedi proclaims he will remain in Mogadishu’s capital city “forever”:

·        Somali PM Enters Mogadishu, Crowds Line Route (Reuters)

“Evidence of foreign involvement in the conflict would not only breach the UN arms embargo but could destabilize the entire region”:

·        US Accused of Covert Operations in Somalia: Emails Suggest That the CIA Knew of Plans by Private Military Companies to Breach UN Rules (Guardian)

Martin Fletcher warns that U.S. policy could turn Somalia into a “Terrorist breeding ground”:

·       This ‘Victory’ Could Mean a Return to Anarchy (The Times)

First they denied holding them, then they accused them of transferring IEDs to insurgents, and now they have released guests of the Iraqi President to Iranian officials:

·        Report: U.S. Frees 2 Iranian Detainees (abcNews)

Reacting to the indignity inflicted on his mother, his son has abandoned plans to join the U.S. Navy to move to Spain:

·        Feds Apologize for Woman’s Strip Search (SFGate.com / AP)

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.)

News and Analysis (12/28/06)

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Hajj: “This is a time of unity for all Muslims, Shi’ites and Sunnis.”

Former Guantanamo detainee who wrote book criticizing Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) disappears—allegedly taken by ISI:

“The technology used to identify a terrorist in a safe house in Iraq is the exact same technology that can be used to identify a war protester in a Quaker meeting house in southern Florida.”

With the seeming defeat of the Islamists, Mogadishu returns to the warlord chaos of the past: “bands of armed thugs swept through the markets, smashing and stealing at will”

Are polygamous men really following Islamic law? Study of social and economic effects of polygamy to begin in Malaysia:

Minefield on Pakistan-Afghanistan border will separate families and “add to civilian casualties:”

US criticizes Israeli plan to build new settlement in the West Bank

Façade of democracy: “Election chief Murad Kariyev said on Tuesday he would “do everything” he could to ensure Mr Berdymukhamedov won “because he is a worthy candidate”:”

BBC reporter investigates secret CIA flights and interrogation centers:

Closed borders led to 6,000 deaths in Canary Islands, alone, in 2006:

News and Analysis (12/27/06)

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Another failed US foreign policy leads to another war:

Muslims in Bulgaria worry about joining EU: “”We are looking forward to join because no one can have too much democracy and freedom … but we are worried how we will be treated.”

No democracy after death of “president-for-life,” but US, EU, and Russia stay silent as they compete for strategic interests in the Turkmenistan:

Arabic ad campaign in Richmond exposes fears:

“Israel must choose between peace and settlements because there is no peace with settlements”

Spanish Muslims ask Pope to create a space for Muslim prayer in Cordoba’s Cathedral, which was originally built as a mosque

News and Analysis (12/26/06)

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Amnesty International expresses disappointment :

·        Iraq Court Says Saddam Should Hang Within 30 Days (Reuters)

Palestinians say Abbas must produce more than “kisses with Olmert”:

·        Talks Emerge Out of Gaza Conflict: Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Met to Talk About Finances and Prisoner Release (Christian Science Monitor)

A semblance of civil society, restored by ICU, is now threatened by war and neglect:

·        Ethiopia Intervenes In Somali Civil War: Ethiopia Stymied Hopes For Peace After It Launched Airstrikes Against Islamist Forces In Somalia On Sunday (Christian Science Monitor)

Ivan Eland attributes the ICU’s sudden popularity in Somalia to U.S. policy:

·        Another Civil War Exacerbated: US intervention in Somalia (Antiwar.com)

A British officer says the destruction of the police station made Basra safer, but the chief of police disagrees:

·        Discussions to Follow Basra Raid: Explosion of Jamiat Police Station: British Officials Are to Explain to the Authorities in Basra Why Coalition Troops Demolished the Headquarters of the City’s Serious Crime Unit (BBC)

Egyptian human rights advocate is skeptical:

·        President Hosni Mubarak Pledges to Improve Democracy Once New Anti-Terrorism Law Passes (abc News)

He had the bad luck to have met two hijackers, and that “set off a five-year legal ordeal that” began with being hauled in front of a grand jury and “ended last month with his acquittal”:

·       Man Acquitted in Sept. 11 Perjury Charges Wants to ‘Be Like Every Other American’ (abcNews)

Talk about unintended consequences:

·        Christmas under siege: Baghdad tree tradition dies (Middle East Online / Freedom’s Phoenix)

News and Analysis (12/25/06)

Monday, December 25th, 2006

It’s now “open war”::

·        Ethiopian Jets Strike Somali Airports  (Reuters)

Diplomats released, others still detained; Iraqi government “deeply upset”:

·        U.S. Is Holding Iranians Seized in Raids in Iraq (NY Times)

She promises “to call for an amnesty for political prisoners and to demand” that the secular “government reform the constitution to give Tunisians more freedom of speech and association”:

·        Woman Heads Tunisia Political Party for First Time (Reuters)

Haniyeh cites precedent for coexistence with Israel in example of China and Taiwan:

·        Amid Chaos, Hamas Talks Pragmatism  (Forward)

[E]very major international aid organization is singing the Islamist group’s praises when it comes to the quality of its work.” Professionalism of welfare operations and absence of corruption noted:

·        Uncle Hamas Cares for Palestinians (Spiegal)

An American learns the hard way…

·        So This Is What Occupation Feels Like: As an American, I Took Freedom of Movement For Granted. Not After Israel Denied It To Me (Christian Science Monitor)

… and the Israelis offer to ease up a bit …

·        Israel Agrees to Remove Some West Bank Roadblocks (Reuters)

… while “Israeli officials say Washington has been instrumental in helping organize shipments of guns and ammunition to” Abbas’s forces:

·        U.S., European Officials Visit Fatah Base in Jordan (Reuters)

 

News and Analysis (12/23-24/06)

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

An anonymous Pentagon official says that Gen. George W. “Casey told [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates in Iraq that an infusion of U.S. forces would not help him politically with the Iraqi government and could impede reconciliation efforts”:

·        Gates Gives Bush Evaluation of Iraq War (Washington Post)

Israeli PM’s offer of “flexibility and generosity” at the approach of Eid-al-adhha marks a change from his earlier position that none of the political prisoners held by Israel would be freed unless the one Israeli soldier held by Hamas is freed first:

·        Olmert Suggests Early Palestinian Prisoner Release (Reuters)

The Iranian reaction to U.N. sanctions was predictable; so, were the movers of the sanctions naïve or were they seeking to accelerate the showdown?

·        Iran to Expand Enrichment in Defiance of Sanctions (AFP)

Iranian U.N. ambassador says the Security Council’s attempt to restrict Iran’s nuclear energy program while ignoring Israel’s nuclear weapons “proves its bias against Iran.”

·        U.N. Approves Iran Sanctions: Iran Vows to Continue Efforts to Enrich Uranium (Washington Post)

The Muslim country in which “two women have alternated as prime minister for the last 15 years” looks to continue the pattern:

·        Hasina to Contest Bangladesh Election (Reuters)

Sistani opposes attempts to escalate the isolation of al-Sadr which, to date, have been a disaster:

·        Key Iraqi Cleric Rejects U.S. Bid For Moderate Political Bloc (Washington Post)

Ethiopia justifies bloodshed by its invasion force as “self-defense”:

·        Ethiopia Attacks Somalia Islamic Council (Newsday / AP)

In a country that boasts a commitment to the shari`ah, this human rights advocate wants to prove that “nobody is above the law,” not even its “religious police”:

·        Saudi Lawyer Takes On Religious Court System: Rights Cases Used To Press for Change (Washington Post)