Archive for November, 2007

The Betrayal of Islamic Law by Its Self-Appointed Guardians

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Any lawyer will tell you that there is great latitude for debating the law in any legal system. The Islamic legal system in no exception. However, certain interpretations of the law are an embarrassing absurdity, and the case of the woman known only as “the Girl of Qatif” is made all the more disgraceful in that the interpretation is made by the self-appointed guardians of the shariah.

The Girl of Qatif was the victim of a gang rape. The Saudi courts convicted the men who brutalized her, but also sentenced her to 90 lashes on the grounds that she had been alone with a strange man. Neither the Qur’an nor the sunnah (the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) admit of penalizing someone for adultery merely for being in the presence of a stranger of the opposite sex, so her attorney quite properly filed an appeal. On appeal her sentence was more than doubled and her attorney lost his license on the spurious grounds of malpractice!

For non-Muslims to fully appreciate what a total perversion of Islamic justice is involved here, they need to know about an earlier case of a woman persecuted for being alone with a strange man. That woman was the Prophet’s beloved wife Aisha (may God be pleased with her).

Accompanying the Prophet on an expedition, she left the litter on which she was being carried to answer the call of nature. She was delayed in her return by her search for a lost necklace. She finally arrived back at camp to discover that the travelers had left without her. (She was a small woman and the litter-carriers did not notice that she was not inside.) As is appropriate for a lost person, she stayed where she was until someone would notice her absence and return for her. She fell asleep and was discovered by a soldier trailing behind, who let her ride his camel while he led the animal on to catch up with the rest of the army. The poor girl found herself the object of vicious gossip as to what must have happened when she was alone with the soldier. She later said of their slander, “whoever was meant for destruction, fell into destruction,” but the weight of the accusations fell hard on her and she suffered a prolonged illness and spent two nights and a day in weeping, as she reported, “until I thought my liver would burst.” Even some of the Prophet’s closest companions spoke to him about divorcing her, but others, like the brave Saudi lawyer, spoke out against letting indiscretion be taken for faithlessness.

Finally, the Prophet approached Aisha directly, saying, “O Aisha! I have been informed such-and-such about you; if you are innocent, then Allah will soon reveal your innocence, and if you have committed a sin, then repent to Allah and ask Him to forgive you, for when a person confesses his sin and asks Allah for forgiveness, Allah accepts his repentance.” Even her own parents would not speak in her defense. Like our brave little girl from Qatif, Aisha refused to be intimidated. She said, “I know, by Allah, that you have listened to what people are saying and that has been planted in your minds and you have taken it as a truth. Now, if I told you that I am innocent and Allah knows that I am innocent, you would not believe me and if I confessed to you falsely that I am guilty, and Allah knows that I am innocent you would believe me. By Allah, I don’t compare my situation with you except to the situation of Joseph’s father (i.e., Jacob) who said, ‘So (for me) patience is most fitting against that which you assert and it is Allah (Alone) whose help can be sought.’”

When her innocence was ultimately vindicated, her parents urged Aisha to go to the Messenger of God, but the girl’s bold response was, “By Allah I will not go to him and will not thank (any) except Allah.” The text of the Qur’an itself condones Aisha’s bravery and patient constancy, asking, “Why did not Believers men and women when you heard of the affair put the best construction on it in their own minds and say ‘This (charge) is an obvious lie?’ Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses such men in the sight of God (stand forth) themselves as liars! Were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you in this world and the Hereafter a grievous penalty would have seized you in that you rushed glibly into this affair. Behold you received it on your tongues and said out of your mouths things of which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter while it was most serious in the sight of God. And why did you not when you heard it say ‘It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to God! This is a most serious slander!’ God admonishes you that you may never repeat such (conduct) if you are (true) Believers.” (24:12-17).

We implore the Saudis to side with Aisha and the Qur’an, and with the Girl of Qatif and her attorney, against the gossips and the perverters of Islamic law.

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

News and Analysis (11/30/07)

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Saudi lawyer and human rights advocate Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem sues the Justice Ministry for revoking his legal license and defaming his client, a gang rape victim, of having an affair:

“A young man cannot find true Islam in state-sanctioned religion…So a young man, with all his power, starts searching for messages on TV and the Internet… Eventually, a young man starts to think that his government is the enemy of Islam.”—Qabil Nasri, Tunisian jailed for alleged militant activities

Fallout over the innocuous naming of a teddy bear “Muhammad” by British teacher in Sudan hits a critical level as British Muslims and government officials slam Sudanese authorities for sentencing her to 15 days in jail while 1,000 Sudanese protesters demand the death sentence for the teacher:

Iraqi and US authorities fail to plan for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing their ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, leading to fears that sectarian tensions could rise and violence reignite from people unable to return to their homes:

Opposition leader Bhutto unveils her party’s platform, but leaves open the possibility of boycotting the upcoming elections:

An American Muslim Woman in Saudi Arabia

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

When you hear someone mention “Saudi Arabia”, what images come to mind? Is it is a place of mystery where women are hidden away in vast harems? If you are Muslim, most likely your thoughts turn to the Holy Mosque in Mecca, a sanctuary for Muslims from around the world. As a liberal American Muslim woman, I must admit that I was nervous, scared, and anxious all at once at the thought of spending my summer in Saudi Arabia. I had heard the stories of religious police beating men who didn’t pray and women who weren’t covered properly (according to their interpretation of Islam). I was worried that as a woman traveling alone that I would be turned back at the border, or even put in a “woman’s claim room” where women are claimed by male relatives like a piece of luggage. I am happy to say that the Saudi I experienced was nothing like what the media or rumors portray it to be.

The first thing to understand about Saudi society is that it is extremely family friendly. Most activities are geared towards entertaining families with children. For example, several shopping malls, amusement parks, cafes, and beach resorts are ‘Family Only,” which means that men can only enter it if they are accompanied by female relatives. In this reverse discrimination circumstance, it is single men or groups of men who are excluded, as groups of women may freely enter.

Much attention has been paid to the injustice of forbidding women from driving cars in Saudi Arabia. What people also don’t realize is that this law not only restricts women, but it also puts a burden on many fathers and brothers who practically turn into part-time drivers at night shuttling around their female relatives.

Overall, I enjoyed Saudi society and culture. Like any place else in the World, including America, if you surround yourself with kind, generous, fun, and tolerant people you will enjoy yourself. And, even in Saudi, you can find the famous Arab and/or Muslim hospitality.

Sarah Swick
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (11/29/07)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

After handing the army’s command over to Ashfaq Kayani, a man considered to have a “clean and solid reputation”, in his new civilian capacity as President, Musharraf announces an end to martial law on December 16:

Is the U.S. military playing “Whack-a-mole?” A top commander of the Marine Corps seeks strategic redeployment of US troops from Iraq to face the Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan:

In lieu of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic games, China steps up its arrests of political dissidents, including non-violent Muslim activists like Rebiya Kadeer:

As state-sponsored traditionally trained clerics are upstaged by self-appointed populist preachers that capitalize off political discontent, Egyptians wonder where is the dividing line between free speech and harassment:

News and Analysis (11/28/07)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

After years of broken promises, Musharraf finally makes good on his word to step down from his position as army chief, meanwhile former CIA officer Arthur Keller finds Pakistan’s army has lost the will to fight Taliban militants and argues US policy supporting Musharraf has failed …

… but in a move meant to break the tense deadlock over Lebanon’s next president, the pro-government bloc led by Saad Hariri announces it is willing to amend to constitution to allow potential consensus candidate and current head of army Michel Suleiman run for office:

After issuing the closest thing to a formal joint declaration, Arab and Israeli leaders get down to the hard work of negotiations, meanwhile some analysts see Annapolis offering little possibility for change, while others see Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the discussions as a pragmatic means to offset the growing influence of Iran:

Led by poor intelligence, US-led air forces repeat a deadly pattern, killing 12 Afghan road workers in an attempt to strike at a terrorist allegedly in the same area:

“I don’t want them to see themselves as Muslim girls doing this ‘Look at us, we are trying to be American,’… No, no, no, they are American. It is not an issue of trying.”—Farheen Hakeem, Minneapolis Girl Scout troop leader

News and Analysis (11/27/07)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Mansoor Ijaz argues that Muslim Americans should be considered for a cabinet level position to help defend America against religious militants because their unique cultural and religious sensitivities can help craft better national security strategies:

Showing disgust with the Karzai administration over its handling of recent deadly suicide bombing in Baghlan province, Afghani parliamentarians stage a walk-out:

A rift in the Iran-Syria alliance emerges as Ahmadinejad criticizes Damascus for participating in Annapolis Middle East meeting and holds “alternate” summit composed mostly of Palestinian militant groups:

Arab government crackdowns on opposition parties and gerrymandered districts not only harm the electoral results of Islamist parties, but also drive down national voter turnout to very low levels:

Iran attempts to demonstrate a measure of justice and accountability in its judicial system by reopening the case surrounding the death under custody of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi:

In contrast to earlier statements from President Ahmadinejad, Iranian state TV airs drama based on the true story of an Iranian diplomat helping over 1,000 European Jews escape persecution and genocide during WWII:

The Naked Ugliness of Grand Jury Abuse: Ashqar Gets Eleven Years for Refusing to Spy for Israel

Monday, November 26th, 2007

On the day before Thanksgiving, Judge Amy St. Eve issued a sentence in the case of Abelhaleem Ashqar. To the shame of the America, the judge sided with government in its claim that an unprecedentedly harsh sentence was required because of an unproven connection between Ashqar’s refusal to speak to a grand jury and terrorism (Mike Robinson, “Terror Trial Defendant Gets Eleven Years,” Associated Press). In fact a jury had acquitted Ashqar of all charges all charges of any sort except the uncontested fact that Ashqar will not talk to the grand jury. In Ashqar’s eyes this refusal was part and parcel of a general refusal to be coerced into becoming a spy for Israel against the Palestinian resistance to the illegal occupation of his homeland. Ashqar’s defense team argued that if any sentence were given, it should be one normally associated with such acts of civil disobedience. The government asked for a life sentence. The actual sentence of eleven years is not as cruel as the life sentence requested by the government, but it demonstrates that the judge bought into the government’s unproven claims that Ashqar was motivated by a desire to “promote terrorism.”

How, in the face of the fact that a jury had acquitted Ashqar of all charges of supporting terrorism one could attribute this, rather than his obvious desire not to be turned into a spy against his countrymen is a chilling question. Perhaps a clue to understanding the reality behind this sacrifice of American justice to political agenda might be found in the Swedish documentary on Sami Alarian, who is also undergoing a similar abuse of the grand jury system. The film, called “USA vs Al-Arian” which will have its Washington, DC premiere on Dec. 5 (one night only!) with a panel discussion moderated by Amy Goodman after the film.

“USA vs Al-Arian” is a disturbing film on freedom of speech in post 9/11 America and political persecution. The film follows the arrest and trial of Sami Al-Arian, an Arab-American university professor accused of supporting a terrorist organization abroad. For two and a half years Dr. Al-Arian was held in solitary confinement, denied basic privileges and given limited access to his attorneys. The film is an intimate family portrait documenting how a tight-knit family unravels before our very eyes as trial preparations, strategy and media spin consume their lives. Norwegian director Line Halvorsen has made a damning portrait of the case focusing on the trial’s emotional toll. This is a nightmare come to life, as a man is prosecuted for his beliefs rather than his actions.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.usavsalarian.com/washington.html or call 813-514-1414.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (11/26/07)

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Seeking to shield itself from further legal challenges to its invasive warrantless wiretap program, the Bush administration seeks to invoke “State Secrets” doctrine before a friendly Supreme Court that is likely to rule in favor of the administration:

Modest numbers of Iraqis returning from Syria are skewed by who is considered a returnee and has less to do with security improvements than with difficulty staying in Syria:

Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan poses a big question mark for analysts and Pakistan’s immediate political future as to whether or not he will participate in upcoming elections and what that will mean for trying to unify with other opposition leaders, meanwhile Musharraf reaffirms his intention to step down from his position as head of Army after being sworn in for another presidential term:

Newly elected Australian PM Kevin Rudd withdraws crucial Australian political support from Bush on Iraq policy by pledging to withdraw its small troop contingent:

News and Analysis (11/25/07)

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

In spite of a lack of evidence demonstrating the Virginia-based Islamic Saudi Academy’s curriculum espouses “extremism”, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and some US Senators continue their drive to shut down the school: 

Editors from the libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine, argue in a Washington Post editorial that the rising success of the Ron Paul campaign has less to do with the candidate himself and more to do with “…Americans who are increasingly disillusioned with the two major political parties’ soft consensus on making government ever more intrusive at all levels…” 

In a dramatic turn of events, key opposition leader Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan and is greeted with the arrest of 1,800 of his supporters, meanwhile Musharraf finally launches long-delayed counter-offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat valley: 

A National Security Council report notes that despite the string of tactical battlefield successes against militants in Afghanistan, a strategic failure could occur due to lack of effective governance and political successes… 

…meanwhile, paralleling Afghanistan, Washington Post correspondent Tom Ricks asserts modest security gains made in Iraq thus far have as much to do with the success of ethnic cleansing as the presence of extra US troops, and further notes such progress is not sustainable without significant political concessions and more effective governance by Baghdad, however the Bush administration sets itself up for failure as it tones down its push for crucial political reforms and deals by the Iraqi government: 

News and Analysis (11/23/07)

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Big brother powers once used under the guise of counterterrorism are now employed to fight regular crime as FBI agents seek secret warrants, many without probable cause, to find the location of drug traffickers, fugitives and other types of criminals:

Although making important strides in human rights since the end of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, Indonesia continues to pervasively employ torture in prisons and in law enforcement and military detention centers:

As the deadline for Lebanon’s presidential administration has expired, leaders on both sides have yet to elect a new leader and both sides are warning of violence if any drastic political moves are made:

As a part of a general crackdown on Muslims’ religious freedom in Uzbekistan, two men imprisoned based on charges of religious extremism died in prison and with their bodies showing signs of torture, according to local human rights activist Surat Ikramov:

After watching further political instability in Pakistan unfold and after speaking to Saudi officials, exiled opposition leader Nawaz Sharif will allegedly be returning to Pakistan in “‘within four or five days’”: