Archive for March, 2007

News and Analysis (3/30/07)

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Iran sites military threats to its nuclear power plans:

U.S. rejects “any suggestion that the British service personnel might be swapped for five Iranian officials held by US forces in Iraq since January”…

… while a former CIA field officer explains his take on why the Iranians captured the Brits:

Hicks plea bargains, will not be allowed to talk to the press until the Australian elections are over, a “a modern cutting out of his tongue” says the head of a legal advocacy group:

Residents call for the return of the militia to protect them from terrorists …

… while Americans and Kurds seem to be helpless against Iraqi government goons evicting Sunnis from their homes:

“Arab leaders reaffirmed their support for the Saudi proposal, which offers full recognition of Israel by the Arab states in exchange for a return of Palestinian land seized in the 1967 war, East Jerusalem as the Palestinians’ capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes…”

… Olmert calls the “willingness of the Saudis to lead … interesting:”

News and Analysis (03/29/07)

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Bismark’s dictum “There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation” demonstrated  (No wonder Allah banned pork!)

In a show of independence, Saudi King calls US presence in Iraq “illegitimate foreign occupation”

Military tribunals: “It’s a rush to injustice.”

Facing discrimination in France, man refuses to rely on the State and uses open border to find work in other European countries:

Instability and closed borders lead many to flee towards their deaths:

Palestinians insist on their right to return and right to their property:

How Should We Understand the Place of the Qur’an Today?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute, www.minaret.org

In addition to the hijab issue discussed in my previous blog, another constant theme during the recent “Women in Islam” conference I attended in Germany was the role or place of the Qur’an in our lives. There were two perspectives presented at the conference: one position that emphasizes what they see as the original intention of the Qur’an, and the second approach being re-reading the Qur’an.

Nahed Selim, author of Take the Koran Away from the Men, largely represented the first position at the conference. Ms. Selim who is an Egyptian-Dutch journalist believes that by empowering women, we can empower Islam. Ms. Selim argued that in order to empower women we need another concept of religion- one that is uniquely an ethical concept that lets go of literal texts.

Ms. Selim criticized the work of Dr. Aminah Wadud and Dr. Asma Barlas, among other, which seeks to re-interpret or re-read the Qur’an. Ms. Selim criticized these female theologians for trying to protect the Qur’an from criticisms of modernity; rather Ms. Selim says it is up to God to protect the Qur’an. Therefore, she believes we should look at the original intent of the Qur’ain, which she argued was the improvement of the lives of women. According to her, we should then maintain this intent, even if it means omitting or ignoring certain verses in the Qur’an. Here, she cited the abolishment of slavery as evidence that this approach has been used before and should also be applied to issues pertaining to women..

Moreover, when pressured by a questioner in the audience, Ms. Selim admitted that it was important to re-interpret the texts, but, according to her, even from a female perspective the Qur’an discriminates against women.

While I agree with Ms. Selim that we need to remember the intention and overarching principles of the Qur’an, such as justice, I find her approach problematic. The Qur’an is universal in time and place. If we come across a verse, which doesn’t fit our lifestyle, we should not simply ignore that verse and throw it out. Rather we need to critically examine both our understanding of the verse and our lifestyle.

This leads us to the second approach presented at the conference: re-interpreting the Qur’an, which I will discuss in the next and final part of this blog series.

News and Analysis (3/28/07)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Sunni neighborhood is rampaged by rogue Shi’a cops and militias in revenge to Sunni militants’ devastating bomb attack in a Shi’a neighborhood two days earlier: 

Upset with their bloodthirsty recklessness, many local Sunni militants are cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and in some cases fighting them: 

Major powers US, Russia and China compete for influence over Central Asian states and their resources, but face issues of state failure and Islamist activism: 

Perhaps alternative solutions would be either to let no one pray, like at the Hagia Sophia, or let both religions pray like at Abraham’s Tomb in Khalil, West Bank

The complexities of being Muslim and serving in the military: 

In spite of recent escalation of tensions and sanctions on Iran… 

…some hawks are beginning to dismiss the likelihood of a military confrontation: 

News and Analysis (3/27/07)

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

As Congress finds its sea legs and begins to take action against national security letter abuses…

…the media now reveals Big Brother’s abuse of the secret FISA court system in providing inaccurate information for the search warrants…

…and his interference in the economic liberty of ordinary American citizens:

Middle East expert Juan Cole gives a news round up of important events dealing with Iraq, including his analysis of why the Iraqi government’s current amnesty plan toward former Baathists will fail:

Mohsin Hamid argues that withdrawing support for General Musharraf is in both Pakistan and America’s interests:

Muslims in Thailand’s south complain that they have not seen the government’s “soft” policy against sectarian violence in evidence, nor has the violence on either side abated:

Egypt sinks further into the quicksand of authoritarianism as national referendum – marred by allegations of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation – in favor constitutional ‘reforms’ passes:

The Plague of the Hijab Issue

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute, www.minaret.org

I was recently invited to represent the Minaret of Freedom Institute at an international conference in Cologne, Germany sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Foundation). The topic of the conference was “Women in Islam: Between Oppression and (self-) Empowerment.”

The Conference brought together Muslim and non-Muslim women[1] from around the World to discuss ways to improve the status of Muslim women.. The credentials and passion of the women assembled impressed me, however I was distressed by the constant confrontations over the “hijab”[2], both by women pro and con hijab (headscarf). It seemed we could not get beyond the issue and lost valuable time in which we could have spent more time discussing the more vital issues, such as divorce, forced marriage, domestic violence, and discrimination. However, these heated, if not repetitive, debates about the hijab allowed me to come to a personal ‘revelation’: women, themselves, are largely to blame for the constant attention paid to a piece of cloth, inhibiting real progress on the vital issues mentioned above.

On the ‘con’ side, I was disappointed in the close-minded discourse presented. For example, a respected Moroccan female academic even went so far as to say, “I do not believe a woman can be free if she wears the scarf.” I don’t believe that we can determine someone’s freedom simply on the basis of their clothing. Moreover, a representative of the Forum Progressive Muslims of Switzerland argued at the conference that female teachers should not be allowed to wear the scarf, as in her view, such women are not good role models for children. Again, I would argue that one cannot judge someone’s morality by their clothing, moreover I would insist that ‘judging of morality’ is not an exercise for humans, rather it should be left to the Divine.

Similarly, problematic is the discourse on the ‘pro’ hijab side. At the conference, and even more generally in the Muslim community, there is a feeling that a woman not wearing the scarf is somehow ‘less Muslim’ or ‘not-as-good of a Muslim’ as one who does wear it. This judging of piety on the basis of clothing is also very problematic in my mind, and, again, should be left to the Divine.

Morality and piety are personal and internal to the mind and heart. As the cliché goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” I also implore Muslims not to judge a woman by her cover (or lack thereof)! For me, this all comes down to individual and personal liberty. In deciding which interpretation of the Qur’an to follow, I believe that, in addition to using intellect and reason, we should remember to listen to our hearts as Allah guides our hearts.[3] So, for example, Dr. Asma Barlas (who was a speaker on that panel) and I may disagree about what the Qur’an says about the hijab. My intellect and heart tells me something different than how she understands it, but that does not mean I am any more right or more ‘guided’ than she or vice-versa. I believe that it is only with such an approach, which stresses the personal liberty and responsibility to reflect on the Qur’an, that we can be healed by the plague of the hijab issue and move on to greater illnesses in our ummah.

As part of a three part series on this conference, the next of my blog comments will be on “How we should understand the role of the Qur’an in our lives today?”


[1] There were also a few men in attendance.

[2] The scarf that covers the head and not the face.

[3] “No kind of calamity can occur, except by the leave of God. and if any one believes in God, (God) guides his heart (aright): for God knows all things.” Qur’an, 64:11 (Yusuf Ali translation).

News and Analysis (3/26/07)

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Former National Security Adviser to President Carter analyzes the devastating impact the concept of the “War on Terror” has had on America and the world:

Before leaving his post as US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad admits to talking with some insurgents in order to the fight against Al-Qaeda, but the success of these discussions is limited at best in decimated Sunni areas of Baghdad:

In the wake of captured British naval personnel and the UN’s recent decision to widen sanctions, tensions crank up further between Iran and the EU and US:

With less than a week for the public to debate and become informed Egyptians vote on a referendum to decide on “reforms” to the national constitution:

Erosions of liberty continue to take place in Pakistan as police arrest anti-Musharraf protestors:

Los Angeles Times editorial argues that abuses of National Security Letters show Congress needs to ‘rein in’ parts of the Patriot Act:

News and Analysis (3/24-25/07)

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Why do some youth leave Islam? Prof. Jeffrey Lang implores Muslims to confront issues of racism, treatment of women, the cultural divide, and “problems with traditional theology:”

Free elections mark Mauritania’s transition to a free society:

New Egyptian ‘reforms’ are “the greatest setback to freedom in Egypt in a quarter-century”

Recipient of NSL Letter speaks out, anonymously : “I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me…”

But who will really be punished by sanctions: the government or the people?

More crackdowns in Pakistan ahead of planned protests:

Article explores alternative interpretations of Quranic verse 4:34, which some claim permits a husband to ‘beat’ his wife:

News and Analysis (3/23/07)

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

While an amalgam of pork-politics and demi-criticism of the war passes 218-212 despite lack of support from some leftist Democrats and conservative Republicans…

… the troops vote with their feet as the desertion rate approaches 1%:

Iran demands “an “immediate explanation from London over the violation of its territorial waters…”

… as a French judge bans “Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie from meeting the former Iranian president and his son:”

Unity government threatened by continued violence:

The “new cadre of respected and successful pro-peace Palestinians who have joined up with compatriots in Hamas in the hope of reestablishing relations abroad and staving off a civil war at home“ provoke a new climate:

Still unwilling to address the Palestinians’ right to return to their homes explicit in the Arab League peace proposal, “in recent months, under U.S. prodding, [Israeli officials] have expressed support for a vaguer version of the offer once articulated by Saudi King Abdullah.”

Locals begin to show an end of patience with foreign militants:

Whatever the reason for their leaving, the end of hostilities was not among them:

Administration officials say that Gates argued that “Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort:”

News and Analysis (03/22/07)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Muslims fight back against grand jury abuse:

Rather than simply relying on poor State services, African American Muslim communities are leading the way in providing needed social services:

In the name of the ‘Palestinian Cause,’ some Palestinians will once again be forced from their homes:

German judge imposes her misinterpretation of the Qur’an in denying a Muslim woman’s request for a State divorce:

Op-ed examines the unraveling of Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan:

Foreign intervention seems to have failed to bring peace to Somalia as fighting again erupts in Mogadishu: