Archive for December, 2015

News and Analysis (12/30/15)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

“While 82 percent of Americans say that it’s extremely or very important that Christians be allowed to freely practice their religion in the United States, just 61 percent say the same for Muslims. [72%] say religious freedom is important for Jews, and … 63 percent say it’s important to protect the freedoms of people with no religion”:

“How many civilians will die in unlawful airstrikes in Yemen before the coalition and its US ally investigate what went wrong and who is responsible. Their disregard for the safety of civilians is appalling” — Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director, Human Rights Watch:

The view that “the Holy Quran itself calls for logical thought[, and i]t is not prohibited for any person to discuss the scholars’ opinions” doesn’t sit well with Egypt’s dictator who insists that “state institutions, including Al-Azhar, are to lead any reforms in religious teaching”:

“Before the fire, I used to think 99 percent of Grand Forks people were good people. Now, maybe 96 percent. I don’t know if that’s the way things always were. Or if people are just pissed. Or confused,” said one of Grand Fork’s “Ne Americans,” while anther says, “It’s like the country needs a bogeyman, and it has become us”:

“[I]t would be a mistake to invest too much hope in the Saudi-led anti-terrorism coalition. First of all, the irony that the country most responsible for creating the jihadi monster now wants to lead the fight against it isn’t going to be lost on the Muslim world”:

“Some community leaders said the recent growth of the demographic has its roots in a shared experience of immigration and the negative political rhetoric that advocates have deemed as anti-Muslim”:

“Critics said the regulations are meant to stifle dovish organizations critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government policies toward the Palestinians… In contrast, pro-government and nationalistic nonprofit groups tend to rely on wealthy private donors, who are exempt from the measures under the bill”:

News and Analysis (12/27/15)

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

“Another way of thinking about it is Christianity had a seven-century head-start on Islam, and Islam is finally catching up” — Alan Cooperman, Pew director of religion research:

The air strike killing of the rebel leader who had promised the evacuation convoy safe passage – delays the U.N. plan “to try to end nearly five years of civil war and it appealed to the warring parties not to allow events on the ground to derail the process”:

“Did we ever think that, instead of enemies, an albeit small group from within the Islamic world using the language of Islam, would present it as the religion of killing, violence, whips, extortion and injustice?”

“The project of a statist, authoritarian Caliphate is the single greatest obstacle to Muslim unity. The politicization of Islam immediately transforms the joy of cooperative action into hostile—even violent—disagreement, dividing and harming the people and places we mean to help”:

“The attacks coincided with both Christmas Day and the Muslim feast day commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad with t]he French Council of the Muslim … expressing its sadness that it took place on ‘a day of prayer for both Muslims and Christians'”:

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, “which split from main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front … after the MILF opened a peace process with the government confirmed they were behind the raids but had said it was over an unspecified land dispute”:

“Palestinian Christians … receive no tolerance or mercy from the Israeli occupation. Their land has been confiscated, their houses have been destroyed, and they have been subjected to daily humiliation on checkpoints when they travel. Same discriminatory measures for everyone”:

Zionists will not permit local democracy in Britain to stand in the way of forcing local governments to do business with the apartheid state:

For Rana Abdelhamid, “a master’s student of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government … self-defense is one way to empower women because, she says, it gives them agency over their bodies”:

News and Analysis (12/24/15)

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

“[A] three-year study, based on in-depth interviews with civically or politically active Muslim citizens in Australia and Europe” finds the majority “highlighted that their Islamic faith has been a key motivator for their civic engagement, both within and beyond Muslim community”:

The impersonal free market provides. “Muslim prayers are recited before flights, there is no alcohol or pork served on board and the Muslim women flight attendants adhere to a modest dress code … [but] the founders of the airline are … a Hindu Indian couple”:

A new inquisition? “At the time she was placed on administrative leave, Hawkins said, she was asked to deliver a theological statement as part of her review…. ‘I was told that my statement was sufficient … and if that’s the case, then what do we have to discuss?'”:

Having fallen in “love with the idea of a deity who communicates with people through words, who sends his worshippers a text and leaves them free to interpret it”, a writer asks why Republican Presidential candidates are above offering her the same courtesy:

“USA has the right to issue and revoke visa – I fully understand that. However not forwarding any reasons infuriates ordinary people. It does not win the hearts and minds of people…. I am amazed how irrational these processes are but does USA care about what you and I think?” …

… definitely not says the TSA:

“The Egyptian cleric, who is also known as Abu Omar, said he was tortured during the seven months he was held captive, something Lady has denied. Mattarrella decided to move ahead with the partial pardon because … Obama had halted the ‘extraordinary rendition’ program”:

While Muslims split over the celebration of Christmas …

… “In Manger Square, local activists placed an olive tree they said was uprooted by the Israeli army in a nearby village, and surrounded it with barbed wire and decorated it with spent tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops and photographs of Palestinians [recently] killed or arrested”:

News and Analysis (12/22/15)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

“[S]ome of the Muslim passengers gave non-Muslims head scarfs to try and conceal their identities” and “a brave Muslim man fooled the attackers by saying that a truck full of police officers that was escorting bus was not far behind” …

… while in the USA a soldier says, “I am not Muslim, but when anyone says the Army that I served with will go on to remove Muslims from my country, they’ll have to take me too, because then and there I will publicly convert….  My American heart will not let me do anything less”:

“Luntz asked panelists if they were Muslim first or American first. ‘… I can be both at the same time. I don’t choose one over the other. I am an American-Muslim. I am both, simultaneously,’ [one] female panelist responded. ‘Are you American or a Christian?'” another asked in return:

Some Muslims celebrate the Prophet (pbuh)’s birthday, even though it is not an official Muslim holiday; so, given that Muslims accept Jesus (pbuh) as the Messiah, as long we don’t accept the myth of divine incarnation, celebrating his birth can be as halal as eating apple pie:

“Islamic State presents [irja, the doctrine that only God can decide who is a true Muslim] as a lack of religious piety. It is, however, true piety combined with humility … [unlike] … the Islamic State’s zeal to dictate, … the arrogance of judging all other men, and claiming power over them”:

“A fallout with Russia that threatens Turkey’s gas imports is a prime reason to restore ties with Israel, but the Gaza blockade remains a sticking point”:

News and Analysis (12/20/15)

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

After their bombing of Libya destabilized the country into warring factions and opened the door for ISIS, the West’s first suggestion to the uncertainly reconciled factions is to allow more bombing:

“Iraq’s defense minister says he has launched an investigation into the killing of 10 Iraqi soldiers in an apparent American airstrike, adding that the wrongdoers would be ‘punished according to Iraqi law'” …

… but the US response is that “things like this can happen in war”:

“Two unpublished investigations show that the United States has consistently overlooked killings and torture by Iraqi government-sponsored Shi’ite militias” of which it was aware at least ten years ago:

“Since the … mass shooting in San Bernardino by a pair who ‘supported’ the ideology of Daesh,” … inarguably terroristic acts against Muslims [mirroring] uncannily the … intimidation against African Americans in the U.S. South during much of the 20th century” have spiked:

“Officials in Augusta County, Virginia, just shut down all schools in the county” after receiving a slew of “nasty” phone calls “directed at a world geography class”  when “a homework assignment on Islam ignited rage” despite an offer non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy in the future”:

“Fellow Muslims on Friday said Tamsir Drammeh’s excuse was a stretch. ‘There’s no such rule in Islam,’ said the manager at his garage”:

With Erdogan’s victory the Kurds are less secure and even Obama calls for his withdrawal:

Muslim “terrorists may have blown up the World Trade Center, but without Khan’s innovation of the framed tube structure, the twin towers probably wouldn’t have been constructed in the first place”:

“Salamalakum Melissa! Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys” — Peek wrote on Facebook:

 

News and Analysis (12/17/15)

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Remember the Christian teacher at a Christian school teaching Christian love for Muslims? Well, “she was called into the provost’s office on Tuesday and told she was under administrative review and placed on administrative leave until the end of the spring semester” …

… even though “[s]he did not insist that Christians and Muslims believe the same things about that one God. She did not state that Islam and Christianity are the same religion under a different name, or even that Islam is equally as true as Christianity” or renounce the Trinity:

The two guiding Islamic principles of just war are “the protection of noncombatants, and … the limitation and restriction of war and violence” so war is only permitted “in a way that regulated the loss of life” as opposed to ISIL’s “promotion of violence and instability”:

“There is a sense among many that ISIS is Saudi Arabia’s main ideology on steroids, [but] there are many Wahabi clerics that are anti-ISIS and anti-Al Qaeda that can be drafted in the theological war against terrorism” — Ebrahim Moosa:

“Tayab Ali of ITN solicitors, who is acting for the Brotherhood … said that there was already a case that the report has been ‘unduly influenced by foreign powers hostile to the rise of democracy in the Middle East'”:

“The UN said that the signing had been delayed for logistical reasons but would go ahead in Morocco on Thursday. Libya-watchers expressed doubts that it would happen, but warned that if it did it could mean the country had three governments instead of two” …

… The unusual pact “largely bypasses the biggest players – the guys with guns – who command rival governments in the east and west. Instead, it was anchored in those Libyans, such as mayors and civil society activists, who most want peace”:

The victim “had never encountered any form of racism, including based on his his religion, before this month’s incident” and now he says he has been overwhelmed by the “outpouring of support from strangers…. I think that’s what makes this nation great: tolerance and acceptance”:

“Enrique Marquez … was also charged with defrauding immigration authorities by entering into a sham marriage with a member of Farook’s family” and ” with a firearms violation for making a “straw purchase” of weapons for” the alleged San Bernadino killers:

The state police commissioner blamed victims “saying its members … had failed to inform security forces of what he called their ‘procession.’ But human rights advocates have denounced the killings as an overreaction by the military, which has been accused of many abuses”:

The Inherent Link Between Islam and Liberty

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

The Inherent Link Between Islam and Liberty

by Eva Forslund

[reprinted from the Foreign Affairs Association of Uppsala’s Uttryck Magazine (2015 #3)]

Washington DC is a vibrant city. Throughout it, there are think tanks and organizations promoting literally any cause you can imagine. One of these is the Minaret of Freedom Institute (MFI), an Islamic libertarian think tank. While it’s not the most expected combination, the Minaret of Freedom truly is a unique place, as I had the privilege to experience during my two-month internship there.

The co-founder and current president of the Minaret of Freedom is Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. Educated at Harvard University as an astrophysicist, he has both religious and academic expertise, and believes he can improve the world the most by giving a voice to Muslims and non-Muslims who actually know what they are talking about. As an economics major, I am quick to point out “Oh, so you have a comparative advantage,” and Dr. Ahmad laughs and agrees. Other people can do scientific research, but advancing the notion of freedom as an Islamic idea is not something many are qualified to do.

That is why Dr. Ahmad started the think tank Minaret of Freedom in 1993, together with Shahid N. Shah, who served as treasurer. The institute has a fourfold mission: to counter the common distortions about Islam; to show that certain modern values originate from Islamic civilization; to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the value of freedom and free markets; and to try to advance the status of Muslims, whether they live in the oppressive East or the hostile West. It’s an ambitious goal, and Dr. Ahmad describes the work as a kind of “two steps forward, one step back” process. He recalls that in 2008, he spoke to Iranian and American officials about starting negotiations concerning the nuclear proliferation. The Iranian officials were convinced the US would not want to negotiate on the matter, and the American officials believed Iran would not allow investigations into their nuclear program. Dr. Ahmad started writing articles to try to persuade the Americans and the Iranians to see their common goals. Although it is always difficult to trace back policy changes to the opinion pieces that advocated for them, the truth remains that on July 14th 2015, Iran and six other world powers, including the US, reached a historic deal to control the Iranian nuclear program.

The Minaret of Freedom Institute has also worked hard to prevent female genital mutilation. While people in Somalia, Egypt, and other African countries have claimed that Islam requires female genital mutilation, the MFI has worked tirelessly to counteract these ideas, by addressing that Islam does not endorse it, but actually prohibits it because of its prevention of female sexual enjoyment, and its dangers to women’s health.

The way I see it, what the MFI has done in regards to female genital mutilation is the core to its work; they use their religion to prevent immoral things from happening in the world. Being brought up in a secular society and considering myself an atheist, this was new to me. Before interning at the MFI, I figured that the institute was supporting women’s rights despite the religious purpose of the institute. I assumed the MFI was sacrificing some of its religion in order to truly be libertarian – but I was wrong.

To Dr. Ahmad, libertarianism is right at the heart of Islam. What Islam tells the believer is that every individual has a direct responsibility towards the divine. Just like in libertarianism, the individual is at the center. This might be hard to grasp for people who think that religion should be separated from morality. But Dr. Ahmad quotes the verse 2:256 in the Qur’an: “There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut (which means to believe in something other than God, such as idolatry) and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it.” This does not only mean that there is no compulsion in submitting to God; religion in this sense, as understood by the context, means a “just way of life.” Thus, there is no compulsion in how to justly live one’s life. When reading this, it is not hard to notice the resemblance to the libertarian ‘no coercion principle’: it is always immoral to initiate force towards another human being.

Identifying as both atheist and libertarian myself, I cannot help but wonder what Dr. Ahmad thinks atheist libertarians miss out on. He humorously tells me that some of his best friends are atheist libertarians. But on a more serious note, he believes that many libertarians who are not spiritual in any way wrongfully assume that the only moral principle is the ‘no coercion principle’. Many believe this is the defining principle for libertarianism – as long as I do not use force against you in any way, I am allowed to partake in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll as much as I want to. Dr. Ahmad thinks otherwise; there are actually several other moral principles (of which many can be found in the Qur’an). The question is whether one can impose those on other people. He believes we cannot, but that we have an obligation to teachand educate those principles to other people. He also recalls some prejudices atheist people have towards him as a religious person, as someone asked him at an academic conference once “how does someone as smart as you believe in God?” But this does not seem as severe of a problem, as he laughs when he says it.

So why do so few see this connection between libertarianism and Islam, that is so clear to Dr. Ahmad? He asks himself the same question frequently, it seems. “How often does the Qur’an demand Muslims to follow rules and teach them how to live a life?” he asks. Indeed, it happens, and those are rules Muslims should live by. But, he asks, how many times does the Qur’an tell Muslims to be just, tolerant, and to help the oppressed? More or less on every page. Despite this, for some reason, many Muslims still treat things as wearing a hijab as some sort of litmus test for a successful Islamic society, as if wearing a hijab determines whether one is a faithful Muslim or not. How can that be? The hijab is not even mentioned in the Qur’an. Rhetorically he asks “Where are your priorities?” and his voice changes pitch. The frustration is clear. I don’t know what to say, because I am humbled; this makes me realize the helplessness he must feel when he sees people commit atrocities in the name of a religion that he believes has the most just and helpful teachings in the world.

So I ask him what should be done about the atrocities made in the name of Islam. Well first of all, he points out, it is only a fraction of a percent of all Muslims who endorse these acts of terrorism. But Muslims have to speak out about it; they have to condemn it. After working at the Minaret of Freedom for two months, this answer puzzles me. Part of what I have been doing is collecting articles that show why it is inherently wrong to connect Muslims to the terrorism that is being conducted in the name of Islam – since Islam is a religion of peace. One would think the responsibility to condemn it should not be Muslims, since the atrocities themselves are as far from Islam as anything can be. Dr. Ahmad’s expression when I raise this concern is somewhere between amused and restless. “We have to do it,” he says, “it’s illogical, but we’re dealing with human beings.” This is the kind of saying that would sound cynical if it came from any other person, but when it comes from Dr. Ahmad it somehow sounds hopeful; he is eager to take on the challenge. He goes on to explain: these people, like Daesh, are trying to redefine Islam. The real definition of Islam has to be spread and recognized and this has to be done by Muslims. That is what the Minaret of Freedom is all about. Still, Dr. Ahmad seems frustrated by how many times he and other Muslims have had to explain how Daesh and others do not represent Islam. But, he says, “it’s like when I as an astrophysicist time and time again have to explain evolution to some people,” – perhaps a way to remark at some conservative Christians’ unwillingness to accept scientific truths.

 

The Minaret of Freedom truly is a unique organization and maybe that is why the MFI is so small; Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is currently the only person working at the institute. Keeping this in mind, it is impressive to hear about the impact the institute has had. One might think the institute would benefit from widening its purpose; how many people can it attract by being both Islamic and libertarian? How much change can the MFI make possible at its current size? But before asking these questions, lest not forget the most important effect the Minaret of Freedom has on the US society and, indeed, the world: that neither Muslims nor libertarians are monolithic groups. As both Islamophobes and extremist Islamists try to redefine Islam to fit into their narrow worldview, the MFI’s work could not be more important. Showing that there is an inherent connection between liberty and Islam might be detrimental for a continued open American society. Because, as my father says, Muslims are not threatening the American society, hatred towards Muslims is. So what better way to make non-Muslim Americans accept and respect Muslims than to show that what Americans value the most – their freedom – is inherently Islamic?

As I leave the door of the small Minaret of Freedom office I ask Dr. Ahmad one last question: what message does he want to send Swedish university students? As eloquently as always, he answers me:

“To the university students in Sweden, as someone who strongly believes in ideas driving change in the world, I invite young intellectuals in Sweden to take on their role to combat ignorance, and to use every opportunity you have to speak the truth.”

go to Minaret of Freedom Institute home page

News and Analysis (12/15/15)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

[T]he United States is dropping bombs faster than it can replenish them.” Whether the addition of Saudi Arabia and some thirty plus other Muslim majority countries (including the Palestinians) “amounts to any real change in fighting ISIS remains to be seen” …

… and painting “‘establishment Islam’ as a synonym for ‘brutal dictators who cynically exploit Islam for their own gain'” and making this a fight between “the terrorist’s Islam or the tyrant’s Islam … denies space for the vast majority of Muslims who want neither dictatorship nor terrorism”:

After “decades bombing, invading, and droning …; arming and propping up … tyrants …; lavishing Israel with the weapons, money, and U.N. cover used to occupy and brutalize…; and … treating their countries like your own private plaything for war and profit”, this won’t be easy:

A non-Muslim artist “makes the Quran itself into a cultural criticism tool, a mirror, by making the exotic familiar and the familiar exotic, scrutinizing the beliefs and behaviors of ordinary Americans in much the same way as they typically scrutinize Muslim societies”:

A descendent of Mayflower pilgrims “and President John Adams” who “could literally register as a Daughter of the American Revolution” says, “Islam is as diverse as America, and part of what makes America beautiful is that we can all practice what we believe in peace together” …

… while ignoramuses ask, “How is using anything other than the holy bible to be sworn in acceptable?” and scream “what a trader [sic]” at the judge who uses the holy book of her own religion to swear to uphold the Constitution :

“[I]n a free and democratic society we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say” — Muhammad al-Hussaini, senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute:

On Fox News recently, Marco Rubio asked, ”Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?” Well …

… and “30 women have come together in solidarity to learn to protect themselves as Muslim communities continue to face” rising violence:

“The allegation of apostasy made by Shaheen bin Ali Abu Mismar, who is alleged to have had a personal dispute with the poet, was not corroborated by other evidence, which goes against the principles of sharia law”:

“[U]nder visa vetting procedures at the time that Malik applied for her visa, no one routinely checked applicants’ social media postings for irregularities” …

… and the “had previously said that they had managed to stay under counterterrorism investigators’ radar by not espousing those views online”:

News and Analysis (12/13/15)

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Despite being held at Guantanamo for eight years after charges were dropped so that he is a stranger to his own children and being subjugated to abuse in detention, Aamer still denounces terrorism:

Violence against Muslims continues:

The Blaze is surprised to find a Christian teacher at a Christian school teaching love:

“Clashes broke out after U.N. peacekeepers from the MINUSCA mission, brought in to protect poll workers and voters, came under fire in PK5, an enclave of Muslims who have refused to flee the capital Bangui despite attacks by Christian militias”:

The well respected cleric is accused of “defying a ban on coverage of Mohammad Khatami, a former reformist president now described by authorities as a ‘seditionist,'” but “[m]oderates say there is no official ban and that the order was unilaterally imposed by hard-liners”:

For the first time Saudi women vote and at least four win municipal seats:

There is still no “evidence that foreign militants directed” the San Bernardino attacks …

… and experts on hirabah (so-called “violent jihad”), “immigration lawyers and former U.S. diplomats say there’s no sign other foreign brides have sought Western marriages to launch attacks, and it’s still not clear if 29-year-old Tashfeen Malik did so”:

“Egypt’s best-selling author Alaa al-Aswany … supported the Egyptian military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi“, but says now that “freedom of expression is at its lowest point, worse than in the days of Hosni Mubarak” :
“Half of the nearly 6,000 people killed in the fighting and air strikes are civilians, including 637 children, according to the United Nations”:

News and Analysis (12/11/15)

Friday, December 11th, 2015

“Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg. A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British Uniform. A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field. A Muslim surgeon … saved my life” …

… while “roughly 5,900 U.S. service members who self-identify as Muslims … are finding a climate that is significantly worse than anything they experienced after the Sept. 11th, 2001, attacks”:

MuslimGirl’s founder knows that “the headscarf is a symbol of resistance: against Islamophobia, against the imposition of societal expectations, against the violent erasure of our bodies” and she’s grabbed businesses’s by their profit margins:

“Muslim leaders are ‘concerned about radicalization like any other community,” but shouldn’t “be singled out as the go-between between government and law enforcement efforts to stop radicalization,” according to ADL’s Oren Segal:

Identifying himself “as someone who has never been accused of political correctness,” Muhammad Ali reminds us that as “a man of truth, I wouldn’t be here to represent Islam if it was really like the terrorists make us look” …

… now, meet your Muslim neighbors …

… and your Muslim doctor:

“Five schools were hit between August and October 2015 in aerial bombardments that killed five civilians and injured 14, including four children, said the rights group”:

Sen. “Leahy said afterward that he was ‘amaze’ that four Republicans voted against barring religious tests, adding that he believes such a standard for entry could have prevented his grandparents from getting into the country”:

What? Not a single beheading??? What kind of Muslims are these? …

But surely the Founding Fathers didn’t intend to include Muslims when they called for religious freedom…! Well, actually, they did — explicitly, and whether they liked them or not:

In “the Bible: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.’ Or the Quran: ‘… [W]e all are Allah servants, make and spread peace….’ The message is the same. God wants us to live together in peace”: