Archive for February, 2013

News and Analysis (2/27/13)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Both sides offer hints of flexibility, but the tougheswt issues are still unaddressed and Iran’s upcoming elections complicate matters:

“[C]harged with 12 counts of using a postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way” the two defendants “face potential maximum prison sentences of 26 years and 16 years respectively if convicted”:

“A statement from Afghanistan’s National Security Council said that Afghans working with US forces have allegedly been ‘harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.'”:

“More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004”:

“Early Israeli reports said the cause of Mr. Jaradat’s death could not be determined, but Palestinian groups insist he was tortured in custody and furious protests erupted around the West Bank yesterday during his funeral”

“What I’ve really learned is that it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman, what matters is that you do your work properly and you work hard and how seriously you take your responsibilities,” says “Afghanistan’s first and only female mayor”:

The coalition of leftist, liberal, and socialist parties announce” they would not participate in the democratic process as long as the current winners continue to hold key positions in government; somebody needs to explain democracy to these people:

News and Analysis (2/23/13)

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

As the violence continues to percolate in Mali, the U.S. decides to join the fray:

“Asking us to submit sermons in advance opens a dangerous door… Once you submit sermons to be pre-approved and monitored, it opens the doors for a university to dictate what is allowed to be talked about and what isn’t. It’s an attack on student rights, not just Muslim student rights” — student and prayer organizer Wasif Sheikh:

The bill “would interfere in the details of how NGOs operate and organize, and would tightly restrict the foreign funding that rights organizations in Egypt rely on. For the first time in history it would give a legal role to Egypt’s security apparatus in overseeing civil society organizations”:

Elbaradei, who embarrassed himself  by calling for a “No” vote on the Egyptian constitution last December, further marginalizes himself within his own movement by calling for a boycott of the Egyptian elections which Mursi has moved up to avoid a conflict with the Coptic Easter celebration:

“The overriding message of the films … is that the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unsustainable. What sets them apart from the many other films on the topic is the rarity of the voices that share the message: Israelis from the heart of the defense establishment in ‘The Gatekeepers’ and a young Palestinian boy in ‘5 Broken Cameras'” …

… meanwhile Israelis shoot a man in the stomach, a fourteen year-old in the foot and a fifteen year-old in the eye …

… and yet another Palestinian man dies in an Israeli jail reportedly of cardiac arrest during or after interrogation:

Assad has quietly sat back while Israel occupied Syrian territory. The regime that replaces him may not be so compliant:

“[M]any top Muslim leaders … have been speaking out against anti-Semitic attacks, even when carried out by fellow Muslims, and” joining Jewish leaders “in opposing anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry,” and many “French Muslims took part in interfaith demonstrations and candlelight vigils” condemning the Tolouse attack as unIslamic:

Muslims were tolerant when they ruled al-Andalusia, and now that the tables are turned, the Iberians are responding in kind:

If we are not planning to sell Iran our drones, why do we keep giving them free samples?

News and Analysis (2/21/13)

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

With a second stash of covert arms and explosives seized by the National Guard, “[p]arties from across the spectrum agree broadly that a new government line-up is needed. Many including Ennahda say they want to form a broad coalition to build the next cabinet” but ambiguities over procedure pose a problem:

Egypt may have a popularly ratified constitution and an elected civilian government, but the military will not let it forget who is really in charge:

Michael Moore says the TSA greeted the world’s first Palestinian documentary Oscar nominee by turning LAX into an Israeli checkpoint:

What’s the point in banning  a film no one is coming to see? One critic asks, “How can you make a Hollywood blockbuster, put in so much money and get simple things wrong?” adding, “Instead of the film being taken seriously, it became a joke among Pakistanis”:

A lesson to overaggressive salespeople everywhere: agreeing with everything a mark says just to get his money can backfire, especially if he is an FBI agent pretending to support terrorism in order to put you in stir:

A former friend of the ringleader of the convicted group says, “Even within the extremist fold, he was extreme”:

With two children among the twelve killed in the residential neighborhood, “activists have reiterated calls – first made in the wake of an apparently accidental explosion at an arms depot in the capital last December – for military installations to be removed from Yemeni cities”:

“Palestinians have staged protests across the West Bank all week in solidarity with the 4,500 prisoners held by Israel. Four of the prisoners are staging a hunger strike and the worsening condition of one, Samer Issawi, … has drawn international attention and concerns from notables such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon”:

The abuse of Muslim and Christian Palestinians is a regular feature of Israeli life that passes with little question, but Israel’s decision “to disappear a young Jew who had emigrated to the country and agreed to join its clandestine service” has everyone demanding answers:

 

Good Governance and the Islamic Philosophers (part 2)

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

NOTES FROM THE IIIT CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE IN ISLAM: CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES #5

[This is the fifth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Good Governance in Islam: Classical and Contemporary Approaches held in Herndon, VA. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone. Names of participants (other than mine) in the general discussion have been omitted by request of the organizers.]

“Good Governance: An Overview of the Teachings of the Philosophers in the Golden Age of Islam with a Focus on Al Farabi and his Summary of Plato’s Divine Law Theory, part 2: Al-Farabi”

Dr. Charles Butterworth, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland

At the same time there were a number of jurists and theologians like al-Ghazali and ibn Taymiyyah and in the Jewish tradition like Maimum and Shem Tov who passed onto us some of the texts of al-Farabi. There are also some people in the Latin tradition. All of the figures I mentioned were translated into Latin and were the sources of Latin Christian philosophy.

Al-Farabi and Ibn Rushd are my favorites for they preserve the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition. The world we live in is a rejection, not refutation, of the ancient and medieval tradition.  The modern philosophers didn’t have a good grasp of the nuances of the medieval tradition. For these thinkers reason, not faith, predominates. There is nothing there to justify walîyat al faqih. Moderation and prudence are the hallmarks of the ruler. Knowledge is a goal, not a hallmark. Mursi’s attempt to thwart the generals strikes me as prudence. Al-Farabi reminds the philosopher of the importance of religion and law whether revealed or not. He wants to impress upon the theologian the essential role of reason. For Ibn Rushd the goal is to defend revelation by limiting its claims. The goal is to understand the Prophet and his mission. For Ibn Rushd that mission is sound practice for the community. Sound practice presupposes understanding of action and the purpose of action. He also wants to defend philosophy from unjust attacks upon it. In the final treatise he talks about the Prophet as a physician and blames the people who have turned away from the physician who can treat their ills. Ultimate happiness is a synonym for perfection. What serves that purpose? Music, eating, drinking, making money don’t meet that standard. Nor does knowledge. To subordinate religion to philosophy only makes sense if truth is one. Philosophy and religion express the same truth by different means. Figurative speech is found in scripture. There is no provision for freedom in Farabi or Averroes except as they speak of volition or choice. Yet freedom is a condition for responsible human conduct. We have to be educated in its proper use. Liberal education is to teach people how to use freedom well. We must discern the natural order and then respect it. Ta`dîb is the goal. The lawgiver is distinct from the legislator. You do this by persuasion, education or coercion. Human beings are not equal but justice requires us treating them as equal.

Plato’s Laws consists of twelve books. Al-Farabi’s commentary consists of an introduction, nine parts and a conclusion. Book ten is an outrageous discussion of pagan polytheistic theology and I think Farabi skirts that issue. Here he talks about laws not in a political context, but about laws themselves. We do not know if Farabi had access to Plato’s Laws or relied on a summary. He tells us the story of a pious ascetic who fell on the wrong side of a ruler who wanted to arrest him and execute him. The ascetic put on the clothes of an ascetic and skipped through town playing a stringed instrument to the gates of the palace announcing himself as the ascetic and is chased out of town by the palace guard. Is Farabi talking about Plato or himself?

Five lessons: Law, not religion, is presented as the means of improving people. One law is not suitable for all people. Sometimes despotism is necessary. Education is necessary and it must be linked with friendship and freedom. Provision must be made for justice.

There are two identical summaries of the teaching of the ancients speak only of building character, nothing about opinions.  Then a negative portrayal of mutakallimûm who are winning to distort things to win the day on a verbal a battle. Kitâb al-millat begins with a strange definition of millat as opinions and practices set for a community by its first ruler, and says something about what looks like jurisprudence but nothing about kalam. Political science guided by philosophy has a ruler who understands all things and orders the city in accord with divine order.

Discussant: Mahmoud Ay9ub

Is the ruler Prophet or an imam.  If a prophet, there is none after Muhammad; and if an imam, which one?

Butterworth:  Alfarabi seeks to be neither a prophet nor an imam.  Nor does he speak to Shi’i concerns.  It would be better to refer to him as he was known in his day and afterwards, namely, as “the second teacher” (al-mu’allim al-thani) – second after Aristotle, who still remains the master of those who know.

Discussant: Yahya Michot

But later Shia used his works for their purposes.  What is the purpose of the leader?

Butterworth:  To bring the people to achieve or attain happiness.

General Discussion

Did reason predominate over the faith in the West because of philosophy or other key factors? Is there a connection between Greek logic and the notion of the inimitability of the Qur’an?

Butterworth:  With respect to happiness, the task is to identify the most important thing – that for which it is worth doing everything else.  The base pleasures are not the most important thing, nor wealth, nor – with all due apologies to Mssrs. Obama and Romney – political power.  The philosophers say happiness depends upon knowledge of the whole. Hayy, who had attained such knowledge on his own, failed to show the people whom he addressed what this link was.  The Latin-Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages were primarily theologians; they used reasoning and philosophical inquiry to buttress their faith positions.  It is only with the rejection – rejection, not refutation – of Aristotle (Plato was, for some reason, less important) in the late 15th and early 16th centuries that reason – along with the rejection of religious piety – comes to dominate in the West.  I am thinking of Bacon, Machiavelli, and Descartes, but could include others.  All of these thinkers cast doubt upon providence, divine or natural.  That quarrel – sometimes called the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns – continues in one way or another until today.

Hayy’s failure is like Plato’s failure at Syracuse.  As Muslims, we believe all faith is the summit of rationality and there is no conflict between the two.

Butterworth:  The lack of conflict between the two is not self-evident, and the relationship between the two has to be worked out on an ongoing basis.  Consider, for example, the practical lesson in the Surah called `Abasa (he frowned).

There is a hadith of the Prophet saying, “My Lord show me things as they are.”  Perhaps philosophy is a contemplation of higher things.  Remember the story of the encounter between Ibn Rushd and Ibn al-‘Arabi:  Ibn al-‘Arabi comes to visit Ibn Rushd.  When they meet, Ibn Rushd says to Ibn al-‘Arabi “Na’m?” (“Yes?”), and Ibn al-‘Arabi replies “Na’m.”  Then a moment later, he says “La’, wa bain al-ithnayn tatawwur al-anfus” (“No, and between the two, the souls fly away”).  Ibn Rushd was crestfallen at this response, for it was a rebuke to his pursuit of reason.  Aristotle and Plato were not polytheists.

Butterworth:  Yes the story of the encounter between Ibn Rushd, the famous rationalist, and Ibn al-‘Arabi, the promising young religious scholar, is most interesting.  However, I interpret Ibn Rushd’s reaction to Ibn al-‘Arabi’s change of response differently:  Ibn Rushd is crestfallen because this young man had shown so much promise, but clearly in the end had not yet gained the proper appreciated of reason’s importance.  Any teacher would be crestfallen given such a response.

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

Good Governance and the Islamic Philosophers (part 1)

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

NOTES FROM THE IIIT CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE IN ISLAM: CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES #4

[This is the fourth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Good Governance in Islam: Classical and Contemporary Approaches held in Herndon, VA. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone. Names of participants (other than mine) in the general discussion have been omitted by request of the organizers.]

“Good Governance: An Overview of the Teachings of the Philosophers in the Golden Age of Islam with a Focus on Al Farabi and his Summary of Plato’s Divine Law Theory, part 1: Philosophers Within the Arabic-Islamic Tradition”

Dr. Charles Butterworth, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland

I will focus on eight individuals on this tradition: al-Kindi, al-Ghazi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Bajah, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Khaldun.

There is no political philosophy in Abu Yusuf Ya`qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi. He is concerned with self-mastery. Some passengers aboard a luxury ship for a cruise  stop at an island where people pursue those things that interest them. There is a single call to return to the ship. Some passengers do not make it back. Many others return with a lot of extra baggage they have collected that serves as a burden to themselves and their seatmates. The moral, not  to burden ourselves wih nonessentials is clear, but other things are not. Who is it that makes the call to the ship? The Prophet? God? The voyage goes on.

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al-Razi was criticized for being too obsessed with Socrates and not enough like him. His concern was with avoiding extremes. What is interesting is his interest with politics and how he deals with human beings, like a flock of sheep, as tools to advance the tools of the polity. There is no thought to educating them to what is the good, only using them to preserve or advance the regime.

We know that Abu Nar Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Awzalagh al-Farabi was born beyond the Oxus, but we don’t know where. He ended up in Haran as a young man coming under the influence of some Nestorian Christians there. Learning in the West has never been easy. At some point a school in Alexandria opened focusing on Plato and Aristotle. That school too fell on hard times, but Christian prelates imbued with the learning made their way east as far as Haran. After he studied with the Nestorians, he made his way to Baghdad where a school of learning had developed focused on philosophy. Another school focused on grammar and a debate broke out. The philosophers did not do their homework, and the grammarians won. In Kitâb al-Harûf (The Book of Letters), al-Farabi attempts to pick up the pieces and put them back in place. Al-Farabi argues carefully and indirectly that the only way we human beings can understand the world is through reason. In part, he tries to force the reader to understand what is going on. From him, we learn the most about the world politics from Plato and Aristotle. When he cites them, however, it is almost impossible to recognize the source text. He uses the word millat to refer to religion, which he says is synonymous with dîn, but nowhere in his text does the word Islam or the name of the Prophet Muhammad arise, with the exception of a very strange treatise called “The Magnificent Invocation” in which he speaks of Islam and mentions Muhammad, but it is hard to see where he is going with this, although it has been used by those who want to see al-Farabi as a Shia advocate.

Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina seeks to understand how a human being comes to have a prophetic understanding and then tries to use that understanding to teach how to have a virtuous life, including its political aspect. A whole school of learning grew up around his writings especially in Farsi.

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn al-Saigh (ibn Bajjah)’s book has the strange title Governance of the Solitary. The book seems to be about ethics.

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Tufayl al-Qaysi, al-Saigh’s successor, says harsh things about ibn Bajjah, whom he thinks failed to live up to his great promise. In his preface to Hayy ibn Yaqzan he seem to be firmly in the camp of ibn SIna and al-Ghazali, but when we get to the actual story his protagonist is either created by spontaneous generation or the son of a princess who married a commoner. He seems to leave the decision to you but later he mentions the basket in which Hayy is set afloat. Hayy teaches himself through induction the natural sciences without ever having learned how to speak. A man named Absal leaves the mainland seeking solitude. Absal eventually teaches Hayy Arabic and takes him back to the mainland to give the people a correct understanding of religion. Hayy attempts to teach the people but he fails miserably and they decide to go back to the desert island. The point is that to teach people you need more than the truth, you need rhetoric. Ibn Tufayl has another major credit to his life. He introduces Ibn Rushd to the world of commentary.

Abu Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd has written at least one and sometimes three commentaries on almost every work of Aristotle. He was trying to bring together reason, revelation, and practice to show how one leads to the other. When you seek to sacrifice a lamb, as long as the knife is sharp, it doesn’t matter whether it is made in Greece or Mecca.

Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun teaches us the importance of getting history right.

Discussant: Yahya Michot

I would have spoken more about Abu Bakr Ar-Razi and the Ikhwan al-Safa and tried to show why there is such an interest in political philosophy in the tenth century.  I think it was a response to the failure of the Abbasid caliphate.  It is considered a fiasco of the Islamic model of the political organization of philosophy. Alrazi’s book The Proofs of Prophecy, now available in English, is a must-read; it details the reasons for his clash with the other Razi.  It is interesting that the one book Ibn Rushd did not comment on is Aristotle’s Politics, which had not been translated into Arabic, and was forced to comment on the Republic of Plato instead.  Al-Ghazali was the best student of Ibn Sina; even the Ihya Ulum ad-Din is a spiritual implementation of Ibn Sina.  He didn’t write on politics, however, because people didn’t believe in politics, but in individual salvation.  Even with Ibn Tufayl the failure of Hayy to convert the community of Absal symbolizes the withdrawal of philosophers leaving the religious community to the theologians and Sufis.  I consider Ibn Rushd a turning back to Aristotle in a last ditch effort to save the Muslim world that fails.  Even when you try to refute Ibn Sina, you are still influenced by his ideas.  Suhrawadi did the same.  You can hear people invokingwajib al-wajûd  (the Necessitator of existence) even in popular prayers.

Discussant: Mahmoud Ayoub

I would look at the philosophers form a different vantage point. The purpose of philosophy is to find happiness.  Al-Kindi demonstrated that you can be a philosopher and a good Muslim.  Whether A-Ffarabi was a philosopher in the Hamdani court is debatable but his Madina al-Fadila, in some ways based on Plato’s Republic, is his own search for how to find a happy life.  Looking at life as a fairy tale begins with Plato himself.  Ibn Sina wrote on metaphysics but also, in his last work (al-Tanbihat wa al-Isharat), he deals with physics, metaphysics, and mysticism.  Absal and Hayy return to the island not because they think the mainlanders are going to Hell, but because philosophy and religion in the end have a harmony that appears later in Ibn Rushd.  What the religious live by, the philosophers seek to understand.  In my view, the most productive philosophical mistake was attributing to Aristotle the work of Plotinus, imagining a harmony between the works of Plato and Aristotle.  Philosophy in Islam, at least in the East, grew up in what the Sunnis saw as heretical milieus.  No doubt Farabi had Shia tendencies and Ibn Sina knows about the Ikhwan as-Safa.  I think Alfred North Whitehead is right that all philosophy is footnotes to Plato.

Butterworth:  I tried to talk about political philosophy.  As I pointed out, neither Alkindi nor Alrazi has a political teaching; they focus instead on personal ethics and think only in passing about the political community.  Others, perhaps those more interested in mysticism, can attempt to explain the Ikhwan al-Safa.

For me, the working definition of philosophy is that it is an attempt to replace opinion with knowledge.  The philosophers did not try to reform Islam, but rather to think about the big questions:  what is the best regime, what are the characteristics the best ruler should have, and what is prophecy.  As we learn from Plato’s Republic, philosophers must be forced to participate in the community, even in the best community to which they owe their solid training in philosophy.  Beware of those who rush to participate in politics – that is the message.

Plato’s  Republic is not the same as Aristotle’s Politics, to be sure.  But for Ibn Rushd’s purpose, it is a good substitution.  With respect to the notion of wajib al-wajûd, we learn much from Ibn Maimun; in his Guide of the Perplexed, he identifies God as wajib al-wajûd and thus as incorporeal.  That is a hard lesson for most people to learn.

With respect to the merits of Ibn Sina, I am most persuaded by Ibn Rushd who referred to him not by name but as dhalika ar-rajul (“that man”) because of the harm he had done to philosophy.

With all due respect, there is no double truth teaching among the philosophers.  They insist on truth being one and upon the need for us to use our intellect to understand revelation.  If there seems to be a contradiction, we have misunderstood something.  Our goal as scholars is to cut through all the old half-truths and ill-formed opinions about the history of philosophy and about the purported influences on this or that philosopher in order to get at the teaching of each one, to discover for ourselves what that teaching means.

General Discussion

What practical consequences do these philosophers have for us in dealing with the big issues of peace, etc. today.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad:  Tom Lehrer defined a philosopher as someone who gives advice to people who are happier than he is.

Butterworth:  Philosophers do not give us answers; they teach us how to think about these questions.  For me, reason is not `aql (“intellect”), but natq; it is the process of thinking through.  Although it is by no means the dominant opinion, a number of Alfarabi scholars today deny a neo-Platonic influence on him. When you read Kitab al-Siyasa al-Madaniyya, you see right away that there is no way Alfarabi can embrace the cosmology he presents there.  The full title of The Virtuous City, namely, Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City (Mabadi’ Ara’ Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila) makes clear that it is a primer on how to get people to think, not a statement of how things are.

Did these people use the word siyâsa to mean politics?

Butterworth:  Siyasa is the word for politics, but we still have a problem understanding what these words mean.  For Abdol Karem Soroush, siyasa is a bridle you put on a horse.  True, but you guide a horse rather than force it.  You want to strengthen right desires and weaken other ones.

What is the title of Al-Kindi’s lost book?  I’ve heard people say Al-Farabi’s treatise, The Magnificent Invocation, was an apologetic work to save himself from being branded as a heretic.

Butterworth: The title of Al=Kindi’s treatise – it is not lost – is “Treatise on the Device for Driving Away Sorrows”; it has recently been translated into English by a student of Michael Marmura. My take on what happened after the 14th c. is that philosophical inquiry was replaced by theosophy and mysticism.  My good friend Hussain Ziai, may his soul rest in peace, has brought many of these works to light; he always insisted that they were treatises on philosophy.   But we could never persuade each other one way or the other.  The major scholarly question today is to learn what happened – that is, what writings were produced – between the time of Ibn Khaldun’s death (early 15th century) and the advent of al-Afghani in the early 19th century.

Ibn Taymiyyah has long commentaries on these figures among others.  Why did philosophy survive without philosophers?  We had a conjunction between kalam and philosophers and then philosophers fond no sponsors.  It is practiced in other milieus, madrassas, observatories, etc.  The writings of arabi, ar-Razi or at-Tusi are full of philosophy, but Orientalists are ready to study Aquinas as a philosopher even though he is a theologian but not our philosophers.

Butterworth:  It sounds to me as though you are saying that we should read Muslim jurists and theologians rather than Christian ones, but that does not solve our fundamental problem:  how to understand Arabic-Islamic philosophy through the ages.

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

News and Anaysis (2/19/13)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

“As many as 4,000 women began a sit-in in Quetta, in south-west Pakistan, on Sunday evening. The blocked a road and refused to carry out the traditional ritual of burying the Hazara dead until action was taken against the bombers”:

An AP photographer at the scene says at least 15 tunnels filled with wastewater. Yousef Rizka, an adviser to Hamas’ prime minister, urged Egypt to halt “any acts against the tunnels” until official ground crossings are opened. Egypt had no comment”:

Once the tool of the secularists, the state news agency is now the tool of the Islamists. Solution? Separation of pres and state; no state media outlets:

“The report by the constitutional court on the electoral law reveals the level of professional weakness of the Shura council and the haste in which the new constitution was drawn up” — former parliament member Mostafa Naggar:

Only one of the five Muslim MPs voted against the controversial bill:

“Malian authorities are investigating claims of torture, killings and reprisals by its own soldiers against minority civilians with alleged links to Islamist militants — accusations that threaten to jeopardize international support for fighting terrorism in the Sahara”:

“Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from The Simpsons as banned items in Iran”:

“[T]he encroachment of Western colonial powers, followed by the emergence of the Philippines and Malaysia as independent nation states, steadily eroded the sultanate’s power” and [i]t became “a sultanate without a kingdom” but “some people in the southern Philippines and [Malaysian] Sabah … still identify themselves with it” …

… while in Thailand, formerly known as Siam, which in 1909 annexed and divided into five provinces the former Sultanate of Pattani, ” resistance to Buddhist-centric rule from Bangkok went on for decades, only waning in the 1990s. As the century turned, however, the convergence of several factors served to reignite the conflict”:

“Yesterday, as the European Union voted  against easing an arms embargo on Syria, Syrian regime troops reportedly launched a missile at rebels in Aleppo” highlighting “increasing doubts about a diplomatic resolution to the nearly two-year-old conflict”:

News and Analysis (2/17/13)

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

“Pakistan’s unpopular government, which is gearing up for elections expected within months, faced growing anger on Sunday for failing to deliver stability after a sectarian bombing in the city of Quetta killed 81 people”:

The Kansas law promoted as protection for women now threatens to deprive Muslim women of cash settlements to which they are contractual entitled from their estranged husbands:

A “growing number of scholars, many of them women, argue that when it is properly understood, Islam not only allows but demands that women be full, active and even noisy participants in the world”:

“Another new poll, this one of Pakistan, shows: a central promise of Obama for improving US security is an utter failure

Karzai has forbidden airstrikes:

“Tripoli’s Anglican Church of Christ the King held its normal Sunday service on Sunday with the priest, Reverend Vasihar Baskaran, saying that, as during the Gaddafi era, the authorities placed no restrictions on worshippers. But he said the five Christian churches in Tripoli have a tacit agreement with the authorities not to proselytise”:

“The violence has clouded the atmosphere around talks begun on February 10 between the mostly Shi’ite Muslim opposition and the Sunni Muslim-dominated government to find a way out of the impasse over Shi’ite demands for more democracy”:

The libel lawsuit accuses the authors of making “false claims that have put the group’s members in fear of violent attacks”:

“We believe that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. We don’t want to build atomic weapons. But if we didn’t believe so and intended to possess nuclear weapons, no power could stop us” — Ayatollah Khamenei:

News and Analysis (2/14/13)

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Ultraconservatives dismiss interfaith dialog as mere formality, but mainstream Muslims see Benedict’s resignation as an opportunity; Qaradawi is “optimistic”:

“The educated and upwardly mobile youth armed with the internet are gravitating towards different interpretations of the second largest faith presented by scholars from American and European countries”:

A lawyer not involved in the case says the decision “is a blow to the technology platform providers because the Court of Appeal decided that Google is arguably responsible for the postings by the blogger once they have been notified of them and have failed to take them down”:

With tensions mounting over civilian death, Karzai looks forward to the departure of foreign troops, but will training Afghani women to help replace them alleviate or exacerbate the cultural insensitivity issues?

“Love rests on no foundation…It is an endless ocean…With no beginning or end…. All these religions…All this singing…One song…The differences are just illusion and vanity” — Rumi:

As “Algeria and Mauritania are ballooning with Mali’s Arab and Tuareg families, minorities who are afraid of reprisals because they are accused of having aided the al-Qaida-linked rebels who overran Mali’s north last year,” an elderly man is arrested only hours after assuring a political scientist “that he was well-treated and did not fear for his security” …

… and in a lengthy letter the senior al-Qaida African commander allegedly expresses “dismay over the whipping of women and the destruction of Timbuktu’s ancient monuments” but “leaves no doubt that … al-Qaida plans to operate in the region over the long haul, and is willing to make short-term concessions on ideology to gain” needed allies:

“The Iranian embassy in Lebanon said … Hessam Khoshnevis, [who] was in charge of Tehran’s reconstruction assistance in Lebanon … was killed by ‘armed terrorist groups,’ a label used by the Syrian government to describe Assad’s foes, on the road to Lebanon as he returned from Damascus”:

“The ACLU of Southern California says under the settlement, county officials will no longer require Muslim women in custody to remove their headscarves”:

“The centuries-old cemetery in central Jerusalem is near the site of a planned museum of tolerance”:

News and Analysis (2/12/13)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

After repeatedly insisting that its uranium enrichment was strictly for peaceful uses, Iran shocks the world by admitting that it has already started converting some of its uranium stockpile into — fuel …

… and softens its stand on inspections, to boot:

Ahmadinejad defiantly insists that the theocratic component of the Iranian system cannot repress the democratic component: “It was heard, some people have said they want to engineer the election…. I would say proudly that the great nation of Iran know[s] what to do, they know which path to take, and they don’t need any such groups or individuals”:

“While the idea of a judicial review of such operations may be gaining political currency, multiple U.S. officials said on Friday that imminent action by the U.S. Congress or the White House to create one is unlikely. The idea is being actively considered, however, according to a White House official”:

To some signs reading “Beitar Pure Forever” evoke “the banning of Jews from German sports clubs by the Nazis,” but o others, allowing Chechnyan Muslims to play soccer for Jerusalem is a slippery slope; they warn, “Next year they’ll bring an Arab”:

“Previously, the Grand Mufti was appointed by the president. But after the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s interim military rulers amended Al-Azhar’s bylaws”:

Government funding makes this sort of controversy inevbitable:

“Richard Prosser’s ‘stupid’ comments that young Muslim men from ‘Wogistan’ should be banned from air travel have created headlines overseas – and Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins says they could cause New Zealand ‘international embarrassment'”:

“The BJP’s sweep in a township comprising 90 percent Muslims will take [the] wind of many pseudo-secular elements”:

“Although precise figures are difficult to come by, Rohingya community leaders and business managers involved in the exodus say the number of boat migrants has climbed to several thousand each month, with two to three wooden vessels leaving area shores each night, at times loaded to almost twice their capacity”:

News and Analysis (2/10/13)

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

With violence appearing, secularists deserting the ruling coalition, the Ennahda Party at odds with its own PM, and no draft constitution in place, Tunisia is unprepared for the June elections, leaving the success of the most encouraging case of Arab spring transition to democratic liberal Islamic government in doubt:

Some Muslim women “feel ambivalent about the term ‘feminism’ even while they may dedicate their lives to gender equality” but one activist considers “Muslim feminist” to be a “redundant term” that is itself “the construct of patriarchy”:

The fashion designer and modelling agent doesn’t want “anyone who’s not strong enough to handle this industry.” One of her recruits explains her eagerness to vanquish the stereotype “that Muslim women can’t work or go to school or dress fashionably,” adding, “This is a positive religion”:

Some “theater colleagues suggested after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that maybe he would be wise to change his name. He refused. ‘The name Mujahid means someone who strives to live in the way of God,’ he said. “'[a]nd, yes, it means holy warrior, too. But if you ask me, that means fighting the good fight” like “[i]f you see a hungry person and feed him”:

Local police deny censorship, but “Greater Kashmir, English language newspaper, said on its website that police went to the printing presses of most local newspapers and asked managers not to publish Sunday editions” and “the editor of another English daily, Kashmir Reader, said that his paper published Sunday’s edition, but that police seized the copies”:

“Egypt’s new constitution includes a ban on insulting ‘religious messengers and prophets'” but “similar orders to censor pornographic websites deemed offensive have not been enforced in Egypt because of high costs” and “rights activists say the ministry of communications and information technology has appeared unwilling to enforce such bans”:

Notwithstanding the hiring of two Chechnyan players that led to the arson, Beitar Jerusalem is still “the only leading club in Israel never to have signed Arab players because of pressure from fans”: