Archive for November, 2013

News and Analysis (11/11/13)

Monday, November 11th, 2013

A deal is on the table, but  the devil is in the details, especially as to what the West is willing to give in response to the Iranian concessions after Iran’s concessions on inspections:

“After a vote early Monday in Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition agreed to attend a proposed peace conference with President Bashar Assad’s government … only if the Syrian government allowed the creation of humanitarian corridors to reach besieged areas and if it released detainees, especially woman and children”:

A family of this Muslim patient has a greater faith n the power of science than the doctors treating him:

Isra Almodallal “a 23-year-old who speaks fluent British-accented English, has assumed a post normally held by tough-talking men who voice Hamas’ bitter opposition to Israel. She will be responsible for the Gaza government’s communications with the international media.” She looks forward “to having a different and unique language. We will make the issues more human”:

Remember when Lady Gaga was denied a visa to Indonesia? Now the shoe is on the other foot as the UK debies visas to three Muslim musical acts, Desert Rose, who are a band from South Africa, Hamid Ahmet from Turkey and Muhamed Al Masri from Libya:

“Egypt is leaving hundreds of Palestinians from Syria with no protection from Syria’s killing fields except indefinite detention in miserable conditions” — Joe Stork, HRW Middle East deputy director:

“The only exception, of course, is their opposition to any form of communalism”:

“After Hassan’s announcement, hundreds of supporters of former President Mohamed Nasheed poured into the streets to demand Hassan’s resignation, throwing stones and bottles at police”:

“Protesters have shut Libya’s gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, demanding more rights for the Amazigh, or Berber, minority”:

News and Analysis (11/8/13)

Friday, November 8th, 2013

With John Kerry planning to join the negotiations as they seem to near conclusion, Iran Foreign Minister Zarif compares his country’s own hardliners to those in the US:

“Supporters of Egypt’s toppled president clashed with opponents Friday as security forces fired tear gas to break up their demonstrations over detained female protesters, part of an effort to draw wider support for their dwindling rallies. At least two people were killed and 20 were injured, an official said”:

“Egypt said on Friday it would hold parliamentary elections in February or March, with presidential polls in early summer, and that the political arm of ousted president Mohamed Mursi’s banned Muslim Brotherhood could participate.” Good luck, with their leaders all in detention:

Muslims may have little interest in the British “Islamic” bond that pays no interest. Says one Muslim banker in Britain, “The whole system has been hijacked by a small number of scholars earning huge sums who lack the most basic understanding of economics”:

Has Congress cut off the nose of holocaust victims to spite the face of Zionism? “The suspension of US contributions, which accounted for $80m a year – 22% of Unesco’s overall budget – brought the agency to the brink of a financial crisis and forced it to cut or scale back US-led initiatives such as Holocaust education and tsunami research”:

Building a wall to split a subject community? Why does that sound sop disturbingly familiar?

“I absolutely was critical of the military action. I never supported it. I supported the unity of the country, but that was a political support, nothing to do with military action or atrocities” — Chowdhury Mueen Uddin:

Ms. Marvel may not be the first Muslim superhero, but as an American Muslim female superhero she can “open the eyes of a new generation of comic book readers to the mostly unseen, unknown complexities of being a Muslim-American woman”:


News and Analysis (11/6/13)

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

In sustaining the ban, the court endorses not only the kangaroo trail of Morsi, but the arrests of thousands of his followers , “including nearly all of the Brotherhood’s senior figures” and the slaughter of “[m]ore than 1,200 pro-Morsi protesters”:

“This judgment sends a message to Emirati citizens that engaging in free-thinking political debate and criticizing their government are treasonous acts” — Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch:

“The crimes committed during the mutiny were utterly reprehensible and heinous,  [but j]ustice will not be achieved by conducting mass trials of hundreds of individuals, torturing suspects in custody and sentencing them to death after trials that failed to meet the most fundamental standards of due process”:

The top ten figures in Foreign Policy’ survey of the world’s ten top intellectuals range from conservative to progressive, from pietist to secular, but every one of them is Muslim suggesting that Muslims have the edge in Internet savvy:

Iran and Russia less reliable sources of energy, Turkey has turned ti its Kurdish resources, but “to stave off political tension with Baghdad and Washington, the parties did not sign a government-to-government deal; instead, they turned the KRG energy portfolio over to public and private energy companies”:

The fact that IAEA Director-General Yukiya Aman is considering Iran’s invitation suggests that,notwithstanding the Israeli attempts to scuttle them, the Geneva talks may be heading into a successful home stretch:

“Ours is a piece of bread soaked in blood. You leave your family shortly before dawn, but you never know for sure if you will return home at the end of the day. Nothing is certain and we live in a constant state of anxiety” — Muhammad Ibrahim Hantash, laborer, for whom going to work can mean “prison, injury, and even death”:

“Saudi police killed an Ethiopian migrant who tried to flee arrest, authorities said Wednesday, as a crackdown on foreigners working illegally in the kingdom widens with more than 16,000 arrests”:

“Storytelling also offers transformative ways to speak with our community on uncomfortable issues like sexuality, gender, spiritual struggles, and controversial personal decisions”and to transcend “the political narratives that often enslave us to outdated, inaccurate stereotypes” …

… but Sana Amanat has chosen to tell her story in the medium of Muslim comic book superhero …

… but in Iran those who would sing their stories but do so underground:


Challenges of Educational Reform in Muslim Societies

Monday, November 4th, 2013


[This is the fifteenth 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.

“Challenges of Educational Reform in Muslim Societies”

A panel discussion with Jamal Barzinji, Ali Mazrui, and Abdalla al Sheikh Sidahmad

Dr. Jamal Barzinji: Educational reform is a major challenge for us at IIIT, under the broader mission of civilizational reform. There is the notion that we are not responsible for the result only for putting forth or best effort. Out of this came The Crisis of Muslim Thought. Tawhîd has been totally misunderstood, and Isamil al-Faruqi attempted to reform it. Dr. Taha Jabir al-Alwani insisted fiqh was for individual salvation, not societal change. We rejected offers to move IIIT to other countries where the absence of freedom of thought would have fatally impeded our mission. We finally realized the importance of focus on educational reform, beginning with the International Islamic University in Malaysia. It took ten years, but the end result is the pride not only of Malaysia but of IIIT. That increased from 1,000 to 15,000 students with 10-15% of the students from depressed countries. We did not select top students, but only serious students. The next step was to focus on the maqasid ash-Sharia. Our Moroccan contemporary ben Ashur was almost completely unknown. We discovered Malak ben Nabi.

We have been struggling in Egypt and the Gulf because they have no conception of what educational reform is about. For them it is a debate about which Western system (American, British, German) should be imported. The changes in Turkey, universities under the AKP, gave us tremendous hope. Educational reform will take a whole generation. We must tell the ascendant parties, “It is not for you to impose education reform. It must emerge from a national consensus. It must come out of our conception of civilization.”

Professor Ali Mazrui: My focus is in part the emergence of a global university. Muslims started the process of globalizing higher education with al-Azhar and the Fez Institution of Learning of Morocco and the no longer extant institution in Timbuktu, where, in Mali, militants who have attacked tombs are threatening books as well.

I speak of Euro-colonial colleges which are colonial recreations established by Britain, France, and Belgium, of schools in their respective homelands. After independence, American universities arose that were autonomous rather than extensions of universities in America. After the 1960s the Euro-colonial colleges mainly affected non-Muslims, but the American universities impacted Muslims. The problem in Euro-universities is too many students and overcrowded classes. The American extensions have too few students as the Muslims prefer to go to the U.S. itself to study.

A consequence on Muslims has been a reduction is self-reliance and independence. There is also a question of what can and cannot be taught in universities intended for Muslim clientele. To what degree can we modernize without Westernizing? When I was in school, the question “When does a sin become a crime?” was an issue under discussion. Are these topics an Islamic university can discuss? Does the Islamization of modernity require a language policy in which all schools in the world include classes in the most important indigenous language, the relevant imperial language, and Arabic?

We need a decolonization of modernity. This includes a reduction in foreign dependency, relevance, diversification (learning about many other civilizations, not just the west) and counter-penetration into the West, e.g. al-Azhar University of DC to counter the American University of Cairo. Finally you will never Islamize education if you leave out the women. Al-Azhar started including women a little earlier than Princeton. Women have always died for their country but it is controversial whether they should kill for their country.

Dr. Abdalla al Sheikh Sidahmad: I have been asked to speak on educational reform in Egypt. Many experts say education is a necessary precondition for development. As educators, we focus on curriculum, students, faculty, library, laboratory, technicians, and environment (lecture halls, entertainment, sport, discussions). Egypt has been a center of civilization and education from the Pharaohnic era. The creation of the pyramids is such a puzzle to moderns that some have speculated they are the product of aliens from outer space. I prefer to believe they are the product of a sophisticated educational system.

After 9/11 funded foreign proposals were submitted to Egypt for educational reform. Some of the proposals address the youngest children who, in the classical Islamic era, were devoted to studying Qur’an. I think the youngest children should focus on the Qur’an and teachers should carefully be selected to be good models. For secondary schools, emphasis should be on literacy and career preparation. Technical programs including computers should be included at the secondary level to alleviate the overcrowding of universities. For higher education Egypt has grand goals. The first is to achieve sustainable development, second an ever growing growth rate, third to cement society. For education in general the goals are 1) promoting educational abilities long-term, 2) self-esteem, 3) skills, 4) creative thinking, and 5) commitment to moral and professional integrity.

Economically Egypt has four options: 1) appeal to lending institutions; 2) restructure the economy so the productivity of the economy fills the gaps, 3) print more currency, and 4) restructure the economy to enhance the service sector. An educational reform that emphasizes technical education can contribute to the fourth approach, especially if the government avoids policies than impede the development of the service sector. Rather than educate a small elite, a colonial legacy, the masses must be educated. Islam is a divine declaration of war against ignorance. That should be the guideline for the Islamists in Egypt.

General Discussion:

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad: I think students must be encouraged to read the Qur’an for understanding, not memorization.

Sidahmad: The issue of memorization vs. understanding is raised all the time. Young minds have a greater ability to memorize. The memorization gained in youth helps in the tafsir later. Doha is an impressive project, but Qatar University is converting the language of instruction from English to Arabic. They seem to think it is either or.  To what extent is Gulen movement a model for other Islamic movements?

Does your concern for indigenous Islamic Language constitute a  change in your position on education?

Mazrui: In my earlier analysis I had no specific proposal for the Muslim ummah. I was asked to be an external examiner of a university in Malaysia that taught only in Bahasa, a language in which I had no competence. It impeded my performance. I wouldn’t say I had changed my mind so much as elaborated on a fluid idea that has become more solid in its evolution.

Ahmad: Why is there no panelist from the Gulen movement?

Barzinji: We met several times with the leaders of the Gulen movement in Turkey and elsewhere. There is room for cooperation, but it would take some work on differences in vision. IIIT emphasizes the ability to think freely, which I do not find in the Gulen movement. Inviting a speaker for a panel is a possibility.

What happened that we entered `asr al in hitâ`, the era of decline? Maybe it is a Khaldunian phenomenon.

The colonizing societies were as changed as the colonized societies. What was the reciprocal process of impact in education?

When I hear someone say the Muslim ummah is a burden on humanity, to me they are the medium of everything I treasure.

Sidahmad: There is a worry in Egypt that foreign education is out of control. 17 of the 36 universities in Egypt are foreign.

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

News and Analysis (11/4/13)

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Not content with banning the Muslim Brotherhood and putting the winner of the presidential election on trial …

… Egypt attempts a complete takeover of religion banning independent places of Muslim worship and requiring “state sanction to preach” …

… and freedom of expression doesn’t fare much better than freedom of religion when the man called Egyt’s Jon Stewart “mocked the military fever now gripping Egypt, and poked fun at military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Military supporters immediately filed legal complaints against the show” …

Yet Kerry is optimistic about democracy in Egypt …

… but then Kerry is eager to improve ties with a country that prosecutes a woman for driving to the hospital in a medical emergency:

This is not just the killing of one person. It’s the death of all peace efforts” — Pakisani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan:

“[T]he main armed groups in the area — Syrian government forces, rebels and the local militias of Sednaya, the Christian town near the statue site — halted fire while organizers set up the statue”:

“According to the Israeli army, the Artillery Corps crashed due to a technical malfunction…. Al-Aqsa TV and the news agency al-Rai however report that Hamas militants shot down the Israeli drone. Israeli army officials said the incident was being investigated”:

“[L]ong before George Orwell popularised the expression ‘war is peace’ … Zionism understood well that its colonial strategy depended on a deliberate and insistent confusion of the binary terms ‘war’ and ‘peace’, so that each of them hides behind the other …: ‘Peace’ will always be the public name of a colonial war, and ‘war’ … the principal means to achieve the sought after ‘peace'”:

The co-founder of the Center for Human Rights Defenders “stopped eating on his 60th birthday on Saturday to protest about the lack of medical care for himself and other dissidents jailed in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison”:

“Diplomats “are on a difficult mission and nobody should weaken those who are on assignment,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, as telling a group of students”:

“[A] growing divergence of views over … [Erdogan’s ]handling of last summer’s violent street protests, and over what Gul calls Turkey’s ‘democratic deficit’ and the ‘normalisation’ of Islamic values within Turkey’s secular constitutional framework, has prompted suggestions that the men who have dominated Turkey’s democratic Islamic revivalzz “may soon turn on each other”:

“Some people there support independence and some do not. Mostly, those who support it are unsatisfied because they are poor”:

News and Analysis (11/1/13)

Friday, November 1st, 2013

“Who are they to comment anyway? We got our own funding, we did not take any money from the government. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” says temple president S. Anandakrishnan of the Muslim NGO “protesting the refurbishment work” …

… the latest demonstration of intolerance in a series by which Malays (who have no trouble tolerating “night clubs are full of young middle-eastern men and women enjoying themselves, whilst the casinos are full of middle-eastern men”) have betrayed the religious tolerance mandated by the Qur’an and embarrassed  the Muslim community:

 “This would be laughable if it didn’t pose a serious risk of prejudice to Oklahoma’s Muslim community…. And I think [the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training]’s reputation has been hijacked by conspiracy theorists and political opportunists” — ” Ryan Kiesel, the head of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union:

The Taliban leader has been reported dead several times before, but this time he’ll stay dead — well, at least they’ve promised to bury him:

The new law was passed with input from Muslim and Sikh communities after a woman “given a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of falsely accusing a senior constable of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving” was later acquitted for lack of proof “she was the woman who signed the statement while wearing the garment”:

Beating their submarines into tourist attractions:

Notwithstanding their differences over the Assad regime, Turkey and Iran agree that sectarianism is the biggest threat to the ummah:

“The taboo [against asking for US help] has been broken. We do not have a firm grip on security so let’s ask our American friends to help us – not to send American troops but to help us with equipment, with technology, with advisers,” — including “armed drones for use against fighters in areas bordering Syria” according to an anonymous senior Iraqi official:

an Iraqi official, who said “Iraq’s request would include While denying Israeli responsibility for the aggression, an Israeli official nonetheless condemned the US for divulging its the fact that it had happened:

Destroying Syria’s chemical factories is one thing; destroying the stockpiles is another: