May 6, 2015

News and Analysis (5/6/15)

“Geller and her claque pretend that they are the beleaguered defenders of a dire threat to 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech … [but] the exhibition’s honored guest was … Geller ally Geert Wilders — an avid book-banner. The Dutch politician has tried hard to have the Koran outlawed in the Netherlands” …

… while Muslim leaders defend free speech of and condemn violence against “xenophobic groups who mock marginalized communities” …

… and “ responded to the campaign by promoting its own Draw Muhammad campaign, in which it invited strangers to draw a friend named Muhammad as a celebration of the human connections people have to “Muhammad” — the most common name in the world”:

“The notice, obtained by RFA and posted on Twitter, ordered all restaurants and supermarkets in Aktash to sell … alcohol and cigarettes and display them prominently. ‘Anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action … against them'”:

“My tomatoes are Spanish, and so are the potatoes I sell. Please explain this to me! Do I need to sell pork to be a ‘traditional Spanish business’? Do I need to sell wine?” — Kouari Benzawi, kebab shop owner:

A “U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, said police, acting on a ‘baseless accusation,’ were armed with assault rifles and accompanied by dogs when they used a battering ram … to break down the door of the home … [in a] ‘military-style’ raid” over  “a $300 camera that he knew nothing about”:

“No evidence yet shared with the public suggests that the two men killed by a security officer when they opened fire on a building hosting a ‘Draw Muhammad’ contest were hardened Islamic State operatives. They pledged fealty to the Islamic State in a tweet minutes before the attack”:

“U.S. and European negotiators want any easing of U.N. sanctions to be automatically reversible – negotiators call this a “snapback” – if Tehran fails to comply with terms of a deal. Russia and China traditionally dislike such automatic measures”:

“The Edmonton Police Service in Alberta, Canada, has reached out to Isse, the 29-year-old Somali-American who said she dropped out of the Columbus police academy this year because she was prohibited from wearing her head scarf, or hijab”:

Work Ethics in Muslim Culture: The Transformation of an Obligation Into a Right

[This is the seventh in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Islamic Law and Ethics held in Herndon, VA in June  2014. These notes are NOT a transcript, but a lightly edited presentation of  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 conference director.]

“Work Ethics in Muslim Culture: The Transformation of an Obligation Into a Right”

Mouez Khalfaoui, University of Tuebingen

In a clip from video “The Holy Game” we see educated young Tunisian men and women chanting, “Right, work, and worship.” They are claiming the right of work. The foundation is haqq and obligation. We looked for the history of work in our tradition. This revolution is a change of paradigms. For the first time, people are claiming their rights rather than obligations. In both hadith and Qur’an there is a positive attitude towards work, but in the context of wealth and poverty. A British author in the 1880s wrote that the Qur’an was reacting to the abuse of wealth, that prayer is better than work. By the 8th-9th century, we find a book attributed to Shabani with the theological debate about work with two streams of thinking. The pious people argue the duty of human beings is to pray and it is better to work on the alms of the rich than to work with one’s hands because the zakat they receive is their right. The second stream was that of the lawyers, which Michael Bonner connected to the change from micro to macro economy from the Ummayyads to the Abassids, from collecting alms from the rich to give to the poor to a thriving economy. Abu Bakr said was he fighting for the right of poor against the rich. By the coming of the Abassids new markets have been established and the Muslim state had the need for workers and traders and Shabani is trying to convince people it is better to work than to pray. Work has become an obligation for the benefit of the Muslim subjects and with it comes the obligation of obedience to the state. In the Quran we do not find the term obligation (wâjib), but the word haqq. In the period of the Abassids we do not find the term haqq, except with respect to God, but we find the word wâjib for man. Earlier scholars resisted the notion of punishment by the state for failure to fulfill an obligation, leaving punishment to God. Even in Ibn Khaldun, however, we find work is an obligation.

Until the Middle Ages work was an obligation rather than a right. In modern times we have Tartawi, inspired by the French, saying that work is an obligation. After the birth of the nation-state, we see the rise of the call to work hard to build a big nation. Bourghiba convinces even some of the religious authorities that the war of liberation is the lesser jihad and the duty to build the nation is the greater jihad, and publicly drinks water during Ramadan to underscore his point, again emphasizing obedience to the state.

The notion of haqq begins to appear in the educational curricula of the nation-states. Tunisia selectively chooses elements of human rights to demonstrate Tunisia’s commitment to modernity; but by establishing that women have a right to work, they have planted the idea that men also have a right to work and that the relation of the state to subject should be based on this notion of right and obligation. I conclude that although we had the concept of rights in early Islamic thought, it was forgotten for a long time and only recovered from the contact with the West and global society.


Asaad al-Saleh, University of Utah. You ignored the Sunna. There are many hadith that say you need to work, and even in the Qur’an there are verses that can be interpreted to include `amal ad-dunya. Scholars have said that if Allah had ordered you to give zakat, then he has ordered you to acquire wealth. I think there is a right in Islam not to be asked more than he or she can do. Obligations are paired with rights and obligations are waived when they are impossible.

Katrin Jomaa, University of Rhode Island. The paper is somewhat disjointed, but it is important. I was resistant to the claim that there was more emphasis on giving alms than work in the formative period. Yet on p. 5 you said there were two schools of thought, the ascetics and the legal scholars. You assert that the Quran gives no distinction between living on alms and living productively, but 4:95 criticizes “those who seek the goods of this life.”

Names omitted: This is about jihad in the context of war.

Jomaa. Well, I think it applies to the greater jihad as well. You say employment as a right is the last stage of development in Muslim society, which I think is too bold and unsupported. I don’t agree it comes from the modern nation-state, but I think the nation-state is not the last stage and is going through crisis. Why is right not discussed in early Muslim history? Because the rulers didn’t have the monopoly of power of the modern nation-state.

General Discussion.

Name omitted. Text references (hadith and Qur’an) are problematic. The conversation turns to risq, bounty which God gives freely, and qasm, that which comes regardless of effort and that which is the consequence of what you do. Shabani was arguing against the followers of Ibn Qaram who said, “Don’t work and God will provide.” Tijâra (trade) and riba are concepts used in the Qur’an in a spiritual way. By the formative period I mean until the end of the 8th century. I dispute Bonner’s argument of the archeology of the hadith. In Sha`bani’s book we find arguments from the hadith and the sahaba that we do not find anymore. For example, Umar saying I would die on my horse, trading it is better than war. In San`ani we find evidence of qutb atikâf: which is better? Sitting in the mosque or trading. These legal categories are not sacred. Why didn’t they think of the concept of rights? It was not important for them. In the Abbasid time the Caliph was trying to present himself as the shadow of God and the concept of rights will undermine that. I am not speaking of the end of history but of the first stage of a new process of change, a lost concept that was recovered through modernity.

Name omitted. What is your understanding of the huqquq Allah (the rights of God) and huqquq insane (the rights of man)? Should the state provide work for its subjects?

Name omitted. The state also has the need to employ the citizen.

Name omitted. Rights seem to be a matter of agency.

Name omitted. If we were the hegemons, the West would ask why it doesn’t have this sophisticated five-fold system.

Name omitted. Why was the notion of right not developed even though it was present in Islamic discourse? We could say it was because of the dominance of fiqh. There is a fight over whose discourse outranks the other. I ask, “What is at stake in that question?”

Name omitted Rights by virtue of being a human being are absent in our current fiqh literature. If the ijtihad is not strictly legalistic but includes more it becomes not mere law but a moral/legal/ethical code.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. Your narrative is that rights appear in the beginning, drop out for most of Islamic history, and return recently. I think this is an oversimplification. Consider G.A. Russell’s argument that Locke arrived at natural rights theory from his knowledge of Ibn Tufayl.

Khalfaoui. People are arguing within the legal culture of the paradigm of obedience.

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

May 4, 2015

News and Analysis (5/4/15)

Tensions were already high in the Texas Muslim community after an Iraqi immigrant was shot dead in Dallas in March as he stood outside his apartment to photograph his first snowfall” …

… so Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders succeeded in provoking more violence:

One soldier reports, “The rules of engagement for soldiers advancing on the ground were: open fire, open fire everywhere, first thing when you go in…. The saying was: ‘There’s no such thing there as a person who is uninvolved'” and another recalls being told that the “area has to be ‘sterilised,’ empty of people”:

“Husein Smajic stumbled across what appear to be the foundations and other relics of the church while digging an artificial lake. He says the project will show that coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Bosnia is indeed possible”:

“[I]t’s very clear that [General Kelly] doesn’t really understand what is happening in the detention center that they’re supposed to be supervising” — Walter Ruiz is the lawyer for one of the Guantanamo detainees who object to being escorted by female guards:

“In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a ‘section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized'”:

“[T]he Israelis have several times bombed Syrian government forces in Syria but not Isis (an interesting choice, we’d all agree)”:

“The offshoot aims to severe ties with the Brotherhood’s arm in Egypt…. ‘The authorities have given themselves a real dilemma by focusing on a small group without political weight or popularity,’ said political analyst Mohamed Abu Romman”:

“AIMIM has emerged as the second-largest party in the Aurangabad municipal corporation, overtaking both the Congress and NCP. It did so by managing to reach out beyond its core Muslim vote base- five of its 26 newly-elected corporators are Dalits [untouchables]”:

May 1, 2015

News and Analysis (4/30/15)

“Elected officials must now step up and level with the world instead of pretending that Israel’s true nuclear capacity is somehow unclear. This hypocritical application of US policy drives much of the contempt the world has for Americans as we quote ‘the rule of law'; and act as some objective arbiter of truth who is above reproach”:

Let them eat bacon?

“Saudi Arabia wants to convince the world that it is on the verge of victory in the poverty-stricken country. The truth is, only more destruction and death lies ahead” …

… “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he was gravely concerned about the ‘continued ground fighting and aerial bombardment in Yemen and its impact on innocent civilians…. There are credible reports of families in Aden trapped by the bombardment and snipers targeting civilians in the street'”:

“We’re now looking at a military force that’s, quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage. The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does. Much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top”:

“Officials say the 10 men, who do not include the man named as chief suspect, belonged to the Pakistani Taliban…. The secrecy surrounding the trial and convictions has led to doubts over whether these men are really who the authorities say they are”:

“Naturally the ship will be released after settlements of debts by Maersk Shipping Line and will be allowed to sail to its final destination. Iranian authorities reiterate that there has been absolutely no political or security intentions or considerations behind the incident” — Iranian Embassy statement  on ship detention:

“How do you know a woman is genuine? If her husband dies she takes care of her children”:

“This could alarm the United States, which is supporting the Iraqi government from the air against Islamic State fighters but is wary of Baghdad’s alliance with Shi’ite militiamen who openly receive arms, funds and strategic direction from Iran”:

April 27, 2015

News and Analysis (4/27/15)

“Throughout my 17 years as a journalist writing about Islamic societies no editor ever asked me ‘What does it say in the Qur’an about this?’ Instead I was writing about what Muslims did, Muslims as an identity issue, Muslims as a geopolitical concept. I had seen the tremendous power of the text in action but I hadn’t read the text”:

Ali’s “derisive language makes it difficult to take her seriously as a reformer who wants peace. Instead, it only attracts other “warriors”—those who both hate Islam and those who want to fight in the name of Islam—while alienating the ‘reformers’ … who believe that shariah can be a part of our modern world, if interpreted correctly”:

“We congratulate the powerful state of Israel and its people on its anniversary of independence, and we hope that next year we can participate in the joy of the grand occasion in Israel’s embassy in Damascus” — Free Syrian Army foreign affairs official Mousa Ahmed Nabhan:

“[D]espite growing international acceptance of describing the massacres as genocide, the debate is not simply a he-said-she-said between modern Turks and Armenians. Genocide has a very specific meaning, one that Turkey argues the Armenian massacres fail to meet”:

“Ban-Ki-moon condemns attacks, including strike on UN school that killed 20 people and wounded dozens, ‘as a matter of the utmost gravity’”:

“The abductors from the militant, al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front in Syria were not paid for the captives who were freed Friday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the mission”:

“Last year, the magazine Zanan-e Emrouz (Today’s Women) published a special issue discussing various aspects of cohabitation, dubbed ‘white marriage’ in Iran, and the reasons behind what it said was the increasing number of unmarried Iranian couples living together”:

“Militants loyal to Islamic State have exploited a security vacuum in Libya, where two governments and parliaments allied to host of armed groups are fighting each other on several fronts four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.”:

April 24, 2015

News and Analysis (4/24/15)

“The blockade by air and sea, led by the Arabian Peninsula’s richest country against its poorest, has led to a warning by the International Committee of the Red Cross that Yemen’s humanitarian situation is ‘catastrophic'” …

… “the UN’s human rights agency said Friday at least 551 of the [over 1,000] people who died were civilians” during the Saudi-led bombing campaign:

 “The surprise results at Birzeit – the Palestinians’ oldest university — are the only discernible manifestation of democratic elections in Palestinian politics today”:
“Islamic writer Ahmad Abu Ratima … asserted that true faith comes from free will and does not fear openness, adding, ‘We need to turn religiosity from a social obligation to a free choice….’ The problem is … political…. If Gaza opens itself to the world, the environment that breeds religious radicalism or atheism would disappear”:

“Saudi Arabia has become known for its association for the strictest brand of Sunni Islam practiced by an existing state. However, Muslims note that the Prophet Mohammed was supportive of a healthy sexual life when it involves a husband and wife”:

“Frontier will amend its employee handbook to more clearly state its zero-tolerance policy on discrimination and provide all new employees with training on that revision. The airline also will amend its customer complaint policy to ensure allegations of discrimination are given appropriate attention”:

The rapid growth in the number of Muslims is mainly due to their youth and fertility, but ” religious switching, which is expected to hinder the growth of some other religious groups, is not expected to have a negative net impact on Muslims”:

American style secularism is absent  in Europe. “England has a state church. France sees religion as a threat to the republic’s sacrosanct laïcité, and keeps it out of public institutions. But the German state sees religions as partners to help citizens – and democracy – remain stable, and it supports religious groups in myriad ways”:

According to “A senior Pakistani counterterrorism official … the leader of the Weinstein kidnapping cell was a relative of Tahir Yuldashev, the former IMU [Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan] leader killed in a CIA drone strike in the Pakistani tribal regions in 2009…. Weinstein was given or, more likely, sold to al Qaeda”:

April 22, 2015

News and Analysis (4/22/15)

“Convicting Mohamed Morsi, despite fundamental flaws in the legal process and what seems to be at best flimsy evidence produced in court under a gag order, utterly undermines this verdict” — Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director:

She alleges that a corrections officer “told her that attendance at the Christian services, described by her lawyer as ‘Evangelical Protestant,’ was mandatory. Refusing to participate would result in being removed from a low-security residential area … and being put into general population”:

“The Saudi declaration had created hope that a political bargain to end Yemen’s civil war might be in the offing …. on the assumption that calling off airstrikes was a quid pro quo for something. But Wednesday’s attacks indicate peace is a long way off for the Arab world’s poorest country”:

“This is not a sectarian conflict. People right now are not killing each other for the sake of religion…. The current conflict is 100% related to disappointment after the revolution…. There was no justice, there was no reconciliation, there’s pure revenge now”:

“Certain problematic attitudes towards science have been imported into Muslim societies as a part of rapid globalization and modernization — the rejection of the theory of evolution, for example. But this also offers an opportunity”:

Europe’s “callousness”, Libyan “gangs [that] prey on migrants, and [Libyan] racism against darker-skinned Africans” and the “migration crisis in its current iteration” are among the unintended consequences of “the fall of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi”:

“U.S. President Barack Obama was forced to give Congress a say in any future accord – including the right of lawmakers to veto the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States”:

April 20, 2015

News and Analysis (4/20/15)

Nawaz Sahrif thinks the Saudis have “‘bitten off more than they can chew.’ The Egyptian experience in Yemen, in which Egypt had up to 20,000 casualties in the 1960s fighting the same Zaydi tribes that back the Houthis, figures prominently in Pakistani thinking, especially in the army” …

… and 18 “scholars concerned with Yemen [who are] residents/nationals of the United Kingdom and the United States” say, “The military attack by Saudi Arabia, backed by … [various states,] above all the US, … is illegal under international law. None of these states has a case for self-defense”:

“Documents uncovered in Aleppo show that Haji Bakr drew up the ‘blueprint for a caliphate’ after being jailed by the US authorities, according to Der Spiegel “:

Hick’s crazed obsession with parking annoyed everyone from neighbors to towing companies, but his obsession only led to murder when it came to Muslims, Muslims who, with sad irony, reportedly sought to accommodate his unjustified demands:

“HRW said the prosecution had presented little evidence to show the defendants did anything other than spread news about a mass sit-in in Rabaa square in 2013 and organize peaceful protests”:

“The series centers on the ‘Qu’osby’ family, a middle-class Muslim family…. Despite their extreme efforts to fit in, they are constantly tripping up, such as when the father, played by Mandvi, overdoes his Halloween decorating and creates the impression that the family might be terrorists”:

“A Moslem who attacks smoking generally speaking would be a threat to existing government as a ‘fundamentalist’…. Our invisible defence must be the individualism which Islam allows its believers … [and] encourage governments to a point at which it is possible quietly to suggest their benefits”:

“Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a bank in Jalalabad Afghanistan Saturday. The attack killed at least 33 people and wounded 105″:

April 17, 2015

News and Analysis (4/17/15)

How was Congress’s compromise with the Obama administration on the Iran deal even possible? Because you-know-who gave the green light: ““This is an achievement for Israeli policy” –Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz :

“[She] wears [a headscarf] … for herself … because she wants to be modest with her body okay? … [The killing in Kenya and Syria are] not her doing that, that’s a minority of people not a majority. Have some respect. What’s that got to do with her?” Stacy Eden asked the vindictive older woman”:

“[T]his was a student-led initiative, rather than a school-sponsored activity. We will put procedures into place in the future that ensure that any communication from a school email is for a school-sponsored event, and not merely supported by a student-run group”:

Judges should allow Muslim women to appear in court wearing a full-face veil, Britain’s most senior judge has suggested, saying that “those people who do cover their face for religious, cultural or any other reason, they should be allowed to do so unless the situation demands otherwise”:

“[L]ocal authorities warned [Ramadi] was in danger of falling unless reinforcements arrived soon” …

… while DAASH may have extended its reach into Pakistan: “The English version of the pamphlet [left in the victim’s car] read: “Oh crusaders, we are the lions of Dualat al Islamia, the falcons of the caliph”:

“I thought … if I go out and shoot people because of this, I would probably shoot another innocent bystander. I would fuel this idiotic cycle of violence.” Instead he is now “on the Global Advisory Council of World Learning, alongside ambassadors, CEOs, and NGO presidents”:

“Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said today perpetrators of human rights abuses among his security forces and Shi’a militia allies will be “held accountable,” but he offered no evidence that any of Baghdad’s fighters guilty of ISIS-like atrocities have yet been brought to justice”:

“With the raids failing to stop the rebels, there has been speculation a ground campaign could be launched” …

… while  “Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Friday he would not leave the country, dismissing reports in the Gulf Arab media that he was seeking a safe exit as Saudi Arabian war planes bomb troops loyal to him and their Houthi militia allies”:

“Indian police arrested a top Kashmiri separatist leader on Friday for leading an anti-India demonstration and detained two others to prevent a planned protest in the Himalayan region”:

April 15, 2015

News and Analysis (4/15/15)

“In a rare outbreak of bipartisan compromise and a partial victory for the White House, the Senate foreign relations committee voted unanimously to amend language in legislation that once threatened to give congressional hawks a chance to derail nuclear diplomacy and risk … military strikes”:

With Nigerian schoolgirls now free from the clutches of Boko Haram embracing Western education with an in-your-face attitude towards their former captors, President-elect  Muhammadu Buhari cockily threatens the terrorist group …

… yet he admits “that he cannot promise to find the 219 [girls] who are still missing”:

Developments in the Yemeni conflict include a UN arms embargo, Egyptian-Saudi coordination, the death of a Saudi religious figure, and an Iranian peace proposal:

“Sharia, she points out, is a world view, ‘the divine order of the universe’. What she is interrogating is fiqh, the Muslim legal tradition of man-made rules based on almost exclusively male interpretations of sacred texts”:

Rather than “argue with those who have no desire to gain a deeper understanding of Islam, or … who lack understanding of historical context and … can’t differentiate between the literal and analogical ….[, it] would be far more powerful to embody the values for which Islam stands”:

“Counter-terrorism can only succeed if both civil society and the government work together to counter violent extremism” — joint statement by 15 civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission:

“Afkham will only be the second female ambassador Iran has had…. [President] Rouhani said this week that he saw it as his government’s duty to create equal opportunities for women”:

“I have not written (in party mouthpiece Saamana) that the voting rights of Muslims should be taken away. I only said that Muslims will not be used for political opportunism if they are not allowed to vote” …

… and one way to prevent them from voting is to prevent them from reproducing–and ditto for Christians:

Does the man who “tweeted a photo of the men praying and captioned it: ‘Muslims praying at half time at the match yesterday #DISGRACE'” even know what the definition of “grace” is?

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