Archive for April, 2013

News and Analysis (4/29/13)

Monday, April 29th, 2013

What we know to date about the family of the boys, one now dead, accused of the Boston bombings:

Syria’s neighbors are apprehensive about the impact of American intervention — except for Israel, which is eager to see it:

Anonymous FBI officials “say they’ve found no ties … [between the mysterious Misha and] the attack or terrorism in general[,]” but they didn’t say how they came to know him or if he has any connection to the FBI:

The exhibition “features exclusive interviews with leading women’s rights advocates … and showcases the barrier-breaking creativity of female artists from every region of the world” and “multimedia stories from dozens of [young] women … who are redefining what it means to be a modern Muslim woman”:

Morsi backs off his court-packing scheme:

“We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once though suggests this is an indiscriminate decision…. We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq” — Al-Jazeera e-mail:

Despite the fact that there is “no indication of any link to the April 15 attack at the Boston Marathon, … Putin said that the Boston bombings justified his tough line against militants in the North Caucasus”:

Qaradawi’s “visit is … a boon to Hamas as they battle their Gaza rivals, hardline conservative Muslims who see the militant group as too moderate” …

… but are they? “Ihab al-Ghusain, head of the Hamas government media office, said the practice had stopped. “If we want to change habits, we have to persuade people, not force them,” he said. But, he added, “the majority of people support our philosophy'”:

“The government says it is not attempting to interfere in people’s lives and is simply trying to bring the country up to European norms … as it negotiates to enter the European Union. But unlike Western countries, which also impose restrictions, Turkey does not have an alcohol problem”:

News and Analysis (4/26/13)

Friday, April 26th, 2013

“U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler told Tsarnaev he did not have to answer questions and could have a lawyer. And he apparently did stop, though other cases in recent years suggest that silence won’t necessarily last”:

“[I]n a letter to Congress the administration made it clear that it did not believe that the evidence was conclusive, saying it only had'”varying amounts of confidence'” in its reliability. Nor did the evidence prove beyond any doubt that the Syrian government had been responsible for using sarin”:

The fact that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is better organized than its competitors within the opposition movement and is “flexible in its positions … creates suspicion about its motives”:

Mission accomplished? “In the wake of several attacks – including suicide bombings – on Mali’s northern cities, both outside analysts and Malians wonder if the Islamist rebels have been defeated”:

“There are at least two reasons why the minority of Americans who hold negative views about Muslims nevertheless support immigration reform”, namely, the broken immigration system must be fixed and the Golden Rule:

The alleged drone flight, unconfirmed by UN radar, “comes amid a significant increase in Israel’s aerial violations of Lebanese airspace since the beginning of the year, with up to 34 jets flying in Lebanese skies in one day alone in January”:

“Richard Dart, the son of teachers from Dorset, and his co-conspirators, Jahangir Alom and Imran Mahmood, were sentenced at the Old Bailey for engaging in conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism”:

“Hammami, one of the two most notorious Americans in overseas jihadi groups, moved from Alabama to Somalia” to join al-Shabab “has been a thorn in the side of al-Shabab after accusing the group’s leaders of living extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collect from Somali residents”:

Amid “concerns about a new Sunni uprising against the Shiite central government[,] Agence France-Presse reports that 128 people have been killed and 269 wounded since Tuesday in fighting between security forces and anti-government protesters in Sunni-majority regions of the mostly Shiite country”:

News and Analysis (4/24/13)

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The Obama administration has expanded its interrogation authority “beyond the ‘public safety’ exception [to Miranda warnings] established by the Supreme Court to arrogate unto itself the power to question suspects about other matters without reading them their rights”:

Anonymous officials say the suspect has admitted that he and his brother acted alone while his uncle cites the influence of a  mysterious “Muslim convert,” but his mom doesn’t believe any of it:

“[W]hen members of the Islamic community there regularly express extremist views, an Imam or other religious leader would call in … another higher-up to try to convince the person of a more moderate point of view. If the person … [persists] his name might be passed along to the police” …

… and in Boston:

“Rudd states he asked Todd why he had demanded to search the woman’s bag, and that Todd told him, ‘because she is Muslim and a suspicious character, now sit down.'” Now really! If she were planning something nefarious, is this the disguise she would pick?

The blowback caused by U.S. drones is explained “at a rare public hearing on the topic held by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee”:

In a move that could further destabalize the region, Hagel offers unprecedented weaponry sales to Israel and greater military cooperation with Egypt, while Israel makes allegations calculated to precipitate such a destabilization:

“[T]he dispute with the Qataris and the Muslim Brotherhood, … which dominate the National Coalition, pushed Khatib into resigning from a post where he had become a mere figurehead that harmed his national and popular legitimacy in the Syrian street”:

“The country’s official news agency said the trip was called off ‘until further notice’, but Mr Mendez said it was ‘effectively a cancellation’. The Gulf kingdom has been wracked by civil unrest for two years. The violence has left at least 50 people dead”:

The fallout from the intervention into Libya hasn’t ended yet:

News and Analysis (4/22/13)

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

With the FBI claiming it had no evidence of a tie between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and terrorist activity even as his mother insists that they “regularly” told her he suspected of  being an “extremist leader,” politicians and the press are asking questions …

… but as Putin postures that he warned us, “Islamic militants in the northern Caucasus are denying involvement in the marathon attack” insisting that it is the Russian government, not the American people that is occupying their lands …

… and as “[m]arathoners observed a moment of silence for the victims in the Boston attacks before running a landscape scarred by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”:

A bi-partisan panel of luminaries finds evidence that “we have been badly misled by false confessions that have been derived from brutal interrogations” and concludes the U.S. has engaged in torture, that it is unjustified, and calls for public acknowledgement of “this grave error”:

“[W]e will not allow the perception to be that there is any religion in the world that condones the taking of innocent life” — Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

In 1948 “Zionists did not possess the power at the time to settle the cognitive dissonance they experienced: their conviction that the land was people-less despite the presence of so many native people there” but confronting the same dissonance in “Greater Israel,” they are armed today with nuclear weapons:

The figure is almost double the number previously released by officials, although inmates and their lawyers have long suggested that a majority of inmates were taking part. Amongst those refusing food is Shaker Aamer, who has spent 11 years … behind bars despite being cleared for release six years ago”:

Among the concerns prompting the resignation is a bill that “envisages the lowering of the retirement age of judges – a measure that would mean the forced retirement of some 3,000 judges”:

Were Turkey’s PM to visit Gaza now it might suggest that Turkey is not back under Israel’s thumb:

The U.S. disputes the Taliban claim that there were American military officers aboard the helicopter:

“Egyptian authorities are suspending and investigating a provincial prosecutor who ordered a man flogged 80 times for public drunkenness… Public intoxication is a criminal offense in Egypt” but “Egypt’s penal code does not mention flogging”:

News and Analysis (4/19/13)

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The now dead older brother of the target of the Boston manhunt that has locked down the city is on record opposing the Russian occupation of Chechnya, but why should he then want to kill Americans? His Uncle Ruslam offer an inspired answer, telling his nephew to turn himself in:

“[A]fter the death of a US agent and 10 Afghan children in a battle he believes was fought by an illegal militia working for the US spy agency” Karzai is set “for another heated showdown with the US government”:

“Five health workers have been killed when South Sudan soldiers attacked a hospital in revenge for the deaths of eight members of the security forces, the local MP has told the BBC”:

Contradicting claims that “the protest was motivated by searches of prisoners’ Qurans[,]” a Muslim adviser at Guantanamo says the hunger strike is the result of hopelessness and that allowing even “one prisoner to be transferred out of the facility would help defuse” it:

“Muslim women are weak? What a stereotype. These women redefine the term courage”:

33% of Palestinians in Israeli prisons “are detainees who have not yet been sentenced,” 3% “are being held in administrative detention,” i.e., without charge, and among the criminal charges is “illegal entry into Israel[,]” i.e., their own land …

… while “among 1,027 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for” Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit are two who now make sweets, not violence:

“Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have blocked a major motorway in Bahrain ahead of Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix in the Gulf kingdom”:

Unsubstantiated claims of chemical weapons use by a regime we don’t like? Is is the part where I came in? I’ve seen this movie before:

The former military dictator says a judges ruling that by “confining judges to house arrest …  Musharraf had ‘spread fear in the society, insecurity among the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers’ community and terror throughout Pakistan'” is “politically motivated”:

 

Iran, Syria, and John Kerry

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

[This is the substance of my recent interview with Mohsin Bayat of usviews.com on current foreign affairs. ]

Q. What do you think about US approach against Iran?

A.  Everyday Americans take the hostility between Iran the U.S. as a given because the one and only attack by Iran on American soil, the seizure of the embassy in Tehran, coincided with the birth of the Islamic Republic. This is unfortunate. While the attack should never have occurred and Ayatollah Khomeini’s post-facto support for the hostage holding is just cause for American resentment, there is a context of a history of American hostile intervention in Iranian affairs, symbolized by the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadeq, of which most Americans are ignorant, and need to be understood. Since that event, Iran has not attacked American interests, and indeed was the most sympathetic nation in the Muslim world when a handful of violent Muslims attacked the World Trade Center in 2001. I do not hesitate to say that there many flaws in the current implementation of republicanism in Iran, but I firmly believe that Americans could have a more benign influence if our advice for improvements to the system were decoupled from any demand that Iran abandon its rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and its condemnation of Israeli apartheid and aggression.

Q. What is best way for Resolving US-Iran disputes about Iran Nuclear program?

A. I believe the best way to resolve American concerns about the production of nuclear weaponry by the Iranian state is for the U.S. to offer Iran support for its rights under the non-proliferation treaty to develop nuclear energy and medicine in return for Iran’s complete and effective cooperation with IAEA’s efforts to assure that Iran is in full compliance with that treaty.

Q.  What are the results of  supporting Syrian opposition by sending arms?

A. I believe those regimes which have armed the Syrian opposition have harmed the cause of liberating Syria from the oppression of the Assad regime. The peaceful demonstrations against Assad held promise of alienating Assad’s army from the regime (as the peaceful demonstrations against the Shah alienated the Iranian army form his despotism). Changing the opposition movement from a peaceful one to a civil war has made the inevitable fall of Assad much bloodier and more protracted, and guarantees that the aftermath will be all the more difficult and divisive and less likely to improve the situation of the Iraqi people.

Q. Do you think John Kerry can make changes in U.S foreign policy?

A. It is not the job of the Secretary of State to set foreign policy, but to implement it. I hope that Mr. Kerry’s war experience will preserve him from making the mistakes of the “chicken hawks” who have held or influenced this position in the past. We must remember that it is the President who is in the driver’s seat, and Colin Powell’s military experience and general good sense did not save him from being used as the tool of warmongers with no military experience in the Bush administration in facilitating the invasion of Iraq.

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

News and Analysis (4/18/13)

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

“The reason there was such confusion and uncertainty about whether this was “terrorism” is because there is no clear and consistently applied definition of the term. At this point, it’s little more than a term of emotionally manipulative propaganda” — Glenn Greenwald:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, which follows the logic Islam, is opposed to any bombings and killings of innocent people, no matter if it is in Boston, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria and condemns it” — Ayatollah Khamenei:

“An Egyptian court sentenced a police officer to 15 years in prison on Tuesday for torturing an ultraconservative Muslim to death, a rare lengthy prison term for a policeman convicted of abuse”:

Insulting Islam or hypocrisy? “Among nine tweets …  cited by the court was one in which the musician joked about hearing an unusually short Muslim call to prayer. He wrote: ‘Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?'”

“A senior member of the Coalition, Abdelbaset Sieda, said the Brotherhood feels misunderstood and worries that people are confusing the group with the ultraconservative Salafis and Islamic extremists who are now gaining prominence on the ground”:

When the new Pope was still a cardinal, he criticized his predecessor’s Regensberg comments saying “will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”:

The imam with “a slightly different version of Islam ,,, had a crisis last year when he went three weeks without anyone showing up…. The following week, as he was serving food for Iftar, …during the month of Ramadan, 32 people showed up”:

Disqualified from running and his bail revoked, the former military dictator of Pakistan flees:

News and Analysis (4/15/13)

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The bill would “exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens”:

The rail union in France Union complains that the national railroad tried to make Shimon Peres feel at home with a little temporary apartheid, embarrassing “because of the part it played in the extermination of Jews, and other minorities” in WWII:

“The case in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour north of Cairo is the first of its kind against Morsi’s Brotherhood and is likely to embarrass the group at a time it is trying to fend off opposition charges of monopolizing power in the deeply polarized country” …

… while “members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), as well as the Brotherhood’s official Arabic website, have also engaged in discourse stigmatizing religious minorities, particularly Christians” …

… so it’s not surprising that:

“After tens of thousands protested on Feb. 20, 2011, Morocco’s powerful king pushed through reforms. Two years later, activists say little has changed, and vow to face down threats and keep up pressure for a ‘real’ democracy”:

“Among those invited to Istanbul will be Moaz Alkhatib, a moderate cleric from Damascus, who said he was resigning as head of the Syrian National Coalition in March after other members of the main opposition group attacked his proposal for negotiating with Assad, the sources said”:

“A Gaza rights group is criticizing Israel’s military prosecutor for deciding not to press charges in an airstrike that killed a dozen Palestinian civilians during a November offensive against Hamas militants”:

“U.S.-educated Fayyad, a former World Bank official, was appointed in 2007 and drew Western praise for his efforts to develop institutions fit for a future Palestinian state. But his popularity sank amid 25 percent unemployment and soaring prices”:

“One Western diplomat said that after securing $5 billion in stopgap finance from Qatar and Libya last week, Egypt no longer felt the same sense of urgency to conclude the IMF negotiations”:

Bashir’s promise to open the orders with South Sudan may indicate a commitment “to peacefully resolve a host of issues that spilled over from the secession of the South”:

News and Analysis (4/12/13)

Friday, April 12th, 2013

“A U.S. Special Operations raid targeting … a Taliban weapons dealer, in Uruzgan Province on Sunday night resulted in the death of [his] brother …, who is also the brother-in-law of Mohammed Qaseem, an aide to Karzai.” NATO claims U.S. troops were under fire, but “the provincial governor and police chief say both men were innocent” …

… while Musharrif, “facing charges for allegedly jailing 62 judges without evidence, and for his alleged role in the assassinations of former governor of Balochistan Nawab Akbar Bugti and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto[,]” is now the first Pakistani official, past or present, to admit “that his government had signed off on CIA drone strikes”:

“The inappropriate transfer of the e-mails follows other questions about government intrusion and secrecy that have undermined the legitimacy of a judicial process that has struggled to establish itself as an effective forum for the prosecution of some terrorism cases”:

“Shop owner Tun Tun Oo, his wife Myint Myint Aye and an employee, Nyi Nyi, were each jailed for 14 years on Thursday for assault and theft after an argument with a customer turned violent, according to the state-run Kyemon newspaper” …

… “[b]ut as sectarian violence led by Buddhist mobs spreads across central Myanmar, … Muslims are disappearing.
Their homes, shops and mosques destroyed, some end up in refugee camps or hide in the homes of friends or relatives. Dozens have been killed”:

“The case highlights Israel’s system of military detention for Palestinian minors, which has been frequently criticized, most recently by the United Nations, which said in March that an in-depth study showed that it systematically and gravely violated their rights”:

Femen activists are being called “Islamophobic and imperialistic” for their blatant scorn for the views of Muslim women, and even Amina Tyler, whose support for the movement has made her the victim of death threats is appalled by their public burning of the Islamic declaration of faith, saying, “They didn’t just insult some Muslims, but all Muslims”:

Human Rights Watch is demanding the full report be made public:

The Muslim Brotherhood always was and still is a conservative movement, but power always has and still does corrupt:

Tighter immigration restrictions are a contributing factor, but so is “simple demography. The children and grandchildren of those who came to Britain half a century ago may understand Bengali or Urdu, but English is their mother tongue”:

“The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has described the country as the ‘world’s biggest prison for journalists'”:

Ihsan and Good Governance: Justice Is Not Enough

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

NOTES FROM THE IIIT CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE IN ISLAM: CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES #8 [revised 5/3/13]

[This replaces the eighth 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 main presentaion has been replaced by a reprint of the author’s Huffington Post article “Justice Is Not Enough” at the request of and with the permission of the author. 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.]

“Ihsan and Good Governance”

Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Professor of Islamic Studies and International Relations, University of Delaware

Justice Is Not Enough!

Posted on Huffington Post: 04/22/2013 6:01 pm

The bombing of the Boston marathon and the subsequent man-hunt for the young Dzhokar Tsarnaev, has once again focused everyone’s attention on the so-called threat of Islamic radicalism and on Muslims living in the West. It has also given anti-Muslim extremists all the ammunition they need to put Islamophobia and anti-Muslim campaigns on steroids. While I fear the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., I am also encouraged by many thoughtful voices, including President Obama, in the broadcast, print and social media, which are warning Americans from a rush to judgment and inviting them to look at the matter without prejudice against American Muslims.

There are signs of two emerging memes in the media that are promising from a Muslim perspective. The first is the suggestion by some commentators that perhaps the Boston tragedy should be viewed more as a Columbine like event rather than an al Qaeda type attack. The second meme is the broad recognition that American Muslims are just as opposed to these horrendous attacks as any American and they have no sympathy for extremists of any stripe. The second view, I think, will limit the impact of those Islamophobes, like Congressman Peter King of New York, who wish to use this tragedy to garner support for their crusade against American Muslims.

But nevertheless, I want to address a bigger problem within the global Muslim community that continues to make young people like the Tsarnaev brothers open to manipulation by radical voices and ready to embrace violence. This is the globalization of Muslim victimology. The perception that every problem in the Muslim world from the civil war in Syria, the sectarian violence in Pakistan and Iraq, to unemployment in Egypt and the crashing of my nephews old laptop, is as a result of a deep-rooted Western conspiracy to destroy Islam.

The main themes of Muslim political discourses, besides the Arab spring, are still the plight of Palestinians, the Indian occupation of Kashmir, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russian atrocities in Chechnya and so on and so forth. We Muslims are selective in our obsessions of injustices; we ignore the plight of Shias in Pakistan, the Kurds in Turkey, Christians in Egypt, or women everywhere. But this idea that Muslims are the victims of injustice is a strong emotional trigger that seems to be built into the Islamic identity and with increased religiosity comes a feeling of Muslim solidarity and heightened awareness of geopolitical injustices. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there are no injustices, there are many. I am trying to impress that in order to arrest the radicalization of Muslim youth, we need to find a way to enable heightened religiosity without a concomitant spike in anger, frustration and desire for revenge.

Muslims should seek change not revenge.

There is a simple solution, let the Palestinians have their state, let the Kashmiris have their referendum, and the US must get out of Afghanistan and stop using drones to kill women and children in Pakistan. But we all know that that is unlikely to happen tomorrow. But what many Muslims don’t realize is that given the global distribution of power, Muslim resort to terrorism in the name of these causes will most likely delay rather than expedite their resolution.

Muslims cannot continue to allow the radicalization of their youth. We cannot allow our kids to become killers and be hunted down like mad dogs.

How do we teach young Muslims to struggle for justice, but without resorting to terror tactics? How do we teach them that a just cause is not a justification for unjust means? Anger is forbidden. To act in anger, even in the pursuit of justice is Un-Islamic. How do we teach our child that how one responds to injustice is the true measure of one’s values and a true reflection of who we are? How do we teach them that our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us — la darar wa la dirar — do no harm and do not reciprocate harm.

Yes, Muhammad taught Muslims neither to initiate harm nor to reciprocate harm. This tradition is very widely known, at least to Muslims who know their religion. It is #32 in the famous collection of traditions by Imam al-Nawawi. Do not do injustice. Do not respond to injustice with injustice. The sources are there, why do we not have the will to teach our children what really are our beliefs? Because the Islamization of Muslim politics, has politicized Islam, and we teach only those sources of our faith that serve our geopolitics. What will happen to the dream of the Palestinian state, the hope of referendum in Kashmir, if Muslims don’t get angry? When will we teach our children that practicing one’s values is more important than advancing one’s politics? Muslims who believe that their religion is beautiful and commands beautiful deeds (Ihsan) must stand up and teach these values.

Every Friday a vast majority of sermons, all over the world, end with this Quranic verse:

Indeed Allah has ordered justice with beautiful deeds (16:90) Bi al-adl Wa aI-hsan. Justice with beautiful action; that is God’s command to Muslims and most of those who pray, hear it nearly every Friday.

This is what we need to teach our children, that we are Muslims, we struggle for justice but with beautiful means. That is the divine command, which if we violate, we surrender our claim to being Muslims. Justice cannot be worthy of pursuit if it is besmirched with the blood of innocents.

Indeed God is beautiful and he loves those who do beautiful deeds. There is nothing more beautiful than abstaining from reciprocating injustice, there is nothing more beautiful than finding compassion and forbearance in our hearts in moments of crisis. Being a Muslim means to submit to the will of God and not to our passions. And He, to whom we submit, commands that we pursue just causes with beautiful means.

Ihsan, doing beautiful deeds, is according to most Muslim scholars the highest manifestation of Islam. It is time we taught our kids to take the highroad.

This article was triggered by the look of sheer agony that flashed on my 14-year-old son, Rumi’s face, when I told him that the alleged Boston bombers were Muslim.

[The following are summaries of comments on Prof. Kahn’s as yet unpublished IIIT presentation]

Discussant: Dr. Jasser Auda

I don’t agree there need be a dichotomy between Islamic state and state. The issue of identity is very important, even if good governance is more important. I would add to knowledge the rest of the maqâsid, life, wealth, religion/spirituality—not just knowledge. To claim a systems approach you have to look at the openness of the system as well as the issue of purpose of the system, and the perception of the system as well. The boundaries of the system need to be defined. Egypt’s revolution was not an Islamic revolution, and it is thus inappropriate to claim an Islamic state as its objective. That doesn’t mean the vision has been abandoned. I totally agree with the critique of Mawardi; he is given more credit that he deserves.

Discussant: Mahmoud Ayoub

Muqtedar always speaks to the conscience of his listeners. Siyâsat-ash-Shari`a means Sharia politics, which means ruling by Sharia in order to establish virtue and justice. Goldhizar, with whom I do not always agree, said jâhiliyya is not the lack of `ilm (knowledge), but the lack of hilm (forbearance). Farabi’s theories are more complex than we have been given him credit for. I think Mawardi was not theorizing the caliphate, but the exercise of power, which I why he mentions the sultanate rather than the caliphate. He argues the ruler should be obeyed even if his rule is only adequate as long as he can protect the borders. We talk about Ghazali’s psychological breakdown but forget that his sponsor had been assassinated by the Ismailis and he feared for his own life. According to the Hadith of Jibril, ihsan is to worship God as if you see him because if you do not see him, he sees you. In my view there are two groups in my state that should not exercise power: the military and the clerics.

Khan: I do not see a dichotomy, bit a disjuncture or a break. Saroush said that Muslims in America practice the Islam of identity while in Iran we practice the Islam of life. People who are sovereign are concerned about governance; those who are not are concerned about identity.

General Discussion

I deeply disagree with the second part of what you said, and I am deeply puzzled by the contrast between the two parts. It is a mistake to speak of state before colonization. Your “Islamist” approach is even clearer when you speak of Ibn Taymiyyah as it is based on partial reading of texts. He praises the Mamluks as the saviors of Islam against the Christians and the Mongols.

Khan: What ibn Taymiyyah is may be less important than how he is seen.

Al-Juwayni represents the juristic position better than Mawardi. He is a critic of Mawardi.

I see the relation between structure and process as dynamic. Do you really believe there is a fundamental duality?

Khan: My most important point is that there is a difference between process and structure.   They have a love-hate relationship with the American system because they have done a pretty good job of putting a structure in place, but more is needed to protect the process. I don’t want to give the standard answer, “religion.” The South African Truth and Reconciliation commission was an example of a process that, although limited in space and time, is an example of what I mean. How do we privilege outcomes that promote virtue? The introduction of critical thought is where I see the role of the muhsanîn. It is not important that everyone see as I do, as long as I raise the issue of conscience in the public square. Education is necessary because it is not the virtuous state that brings about the virtuous public but a virtuous public that brings about the virtuous state.

My reading of the four scholars is different from yours. For example I do not see Mawardi as an apologist of the status quo so much as a reformer intent on subordinating the sultan to the rule of law. Ibn Khaldun does not see the state in structural or legal terms but as a socio-political entity. You said the state has to create a system where virtue is attainable.

Khan: I am still struggling with these ideas. I don’t find guidance in tradition.  Ihsan is not spoken of in issues of governance and policy. I am convinced the state cannot legislate outcome. It should get out of the way. It is not virtue if done under duress. The virtue of the state is to enable virtue.

Ali said a just kâfir [rejector of Islam] is a better ruler in the sight of God than a believer who is dhâlim [unjust]. Introducing ihsan into the makeup of the state introduces more confusion than clarity.

Muwardi never said the caliph must be Quraish. He said that some say this.

Khan: But everyone cites him.

Identity causes divisions and barriers.

Khan: We want to be Muslims, but we also want to be just, so we are returning to these traditions that allow us to be just in this society.

My country Brunei has declared itself an Islamic state and as a consequence has been declared a terrorist country, so we have changed it to a state of dhikr. But we still are a Malay monarchy. We ban wine and we have freedom of religion, and the government implements Islamic family law for Muslims and others under Brunei law.

How are we going to come to an agreement on process? I’m uncomfortable with the discounting of democracy. A Qatari official said it was more important to have accountability and transparency and to fight corruption. But how can we make sure these things are happening without free and fair elections, protection of minorities and rule of law?

Khan: To think we shall find an alternative to democracy is to enter an imaginary state. Muslims are emigrating to democracies. People are talking about liberal democracy without using the words of liberal democracy.

You do not manage people, you lead people and manage things. What do you mean by identity? It doesn’t mean the same thing in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

Ahmad: Law precedes state, but only in broad terms that are self-evident, not in detailed statutes, but that does not mean virtue precedes the state. If everyone is virtuous what purpose, other than to defend the borders, does the state have?  Farabi wanted the state to bring happiness, while Jefferson only wants to protect the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps a Muslim declaration of maqâsid ash-Sharî`a should state that the self-evident rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of virtue.

In what way is good governance empirical?

I believe the gift of post-enlightenment America is a system of checks and balances and popular representation.

Khan: It took India three years to write its constitution. They did not spend much time on identity markers in their constitution. They did not allow identity to subvert epistemology. That is my only issue with group governance. Is liberal an identity?

I am uneasy about reading Maududi or Khomeini as theorists when they were activists.

Khan: Political theorists have to assess ideas. There are few pure theorists among modern Muslims. And Khomeini actually advanced a political theory.

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