Archive for April, 2007

News and Analysis (04/19/07)

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Corruption plagues upcoming presidential election in Nigeria:

Jury selection reveals hidden biases: “asked whether she considered Muslims disproportionately prone to violence. She replied: “Before Sept. 11, I would have said no. But from what I’ve heard since then on the news, I’d say yes.”

State-run TV ignores court orders and bans anchorwomen wearing the veil:

UK government stops using the phrase “war on terror” recognizing the politics and failures in the term:

Accused politicians should be allowed to have their day in court rather than be unjustly exiled:

News and Analysis (4/18/07)

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Pentagon releases redacted transcript of statement by captured militant, in which he asserts he was tortured causing him to make false confessions about himself and have physical problems, such as seizures:

Saudis agree to waive the interest on the interest-free loans and “failed to deliver” on past promises for further aid:

Five Virginia Techs in Baghdad – at least 157 dead, 173 wounded:

150 Parliamentarians in a unanimous voice vote, remove 30 opposition Parliamentarians “for failing to attend sessions”:

Media analyst on Israel-Palestine and Middle East affairs expresses concerns that the preview of the PBS  series on American-Islamic relations suggests that coverage reflects a misleadingly narrow scope:

Scholars and madrassas convention in Pakistan declares suicide attacks and coerced implementation of Islamic jurisprudence as “un-Islamic”:

Two Muslim women – one a senior researcher and the other a prominent religious scholar – answer questions in a symposium living as a Muslim in America:

Prominent American Muslim political analyst takes latest RAND report on ‘Moderate Muslims’ to task for its factual inaccuracies and strong ideological bias: 

News and Analysis (4/17/07)

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Nigeria’s national elections already marred by violence and accusations of ballot manipulation become more complicated as popular banned candidate is finally cleared to run – 5 days before elections:

Voluntary pullout of Sadrists from Iraqi government could fill ministries based on merit, but also poses potential problem of worsening political situation on the street with many Shi’a:

Dire refugee situation in Iraq for refugees forces them to flee to the stable Kurdish controlled northern areas and prompts the UN to ask regional neighbors to continue to open their borders to those escaping the violence:

Human Rights Watch report condemns Taliban attacks against civilians as War Crimes:

Sudanese objections to UN aid to Darfur dropped, paving way for joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force:

Analysts find that one of Indonesia’s highest courts needs its powers to be more separated from the executive branch by making its judges serve their positions as life terms:

News and Analysis (4/16/07)

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Washington Post columnist Robert Novak and the Daily Star Lebanon’s editorial examine Arab nations’ olive branch extended to the Israelis, and the consequences of the latter’s rejection of it:

Admissions at American universities in the Middle East demonstrate a fondness for American values and ideas, but not foreign policy:

Moderator of popular Muslim Brotherhood blog and 23 other members are arrested by Egyptian state security services across the country:

Opposition to Islamic vigilantism in Pakistan escalates as tens of thousands protest against the ultra-conservative leader of the Lal Masjid, Abdul Aziz:

Stressing integration, citizenship, and attaining interests of Muslim communities, leader of Pan-European Muslim organization urges strong participation in France’s upcoming elections:

News and Analysis (4/15/07)

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

With his soft spoken style, transparent style of governance and
support of the current President, Muslim politician Umaru Musa
Yar’Adua is Nigeria’s current Presidential front-runner:

Alleged “dirty bomber” case highlights the moral and strategic limitations of Bush administration’s counter-terrorism tactics:

“Indonesia is an experiment in Muslim democracy, which if successful could have ramifications for other parts of the world” – Director of the International Crisis Group’s Jakarta office

Fears over Iran’s slowly ascending nuclear program have regional neighbors pursuing their own programs:

Iraq caught between two suspicious spy agencies – one funded by the
CIA, the other allegedly driven by a sectarian agenda:

Amid accusations of civil liberties abuses under its watch, Bush administration asks Congress for more surveillance authority and resists calls for safeguards:

News and Analysis (4/13/07)

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Washington Post reporter gives detailed eyewitness account of blast that hit Iraqi Parliament:

Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations provides his analysis of militaries’ Middle East politics:

Former Carter National Security advisor opines on how to get out of Iraq:

Syrian-American acts as unofficial liaison between Israel and Syria and says the Arab state seriously wants to negotiate a peace deal:

Wagging the Dog? In the middle of heated domestic political climate, Musharraf claims security success against Al-Qaeda in tribal region of Pakistan:

In West Bank town holy to both Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israel dispute over the ownership of a Hebron home:

News and Analysis (04/12/07)

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

One woman demands justice for her illegal detention in East Africa as she is mistaken for a ‘terrorist’…

…Following such stories, Ethiopia stages publicity stunt proclaiming how well it treats foreign detainees, but avoids discussing the real issue of illegal detentions:

Will Turkey invade Iraq? Turkish military leader pushes for invasive operations into relatively stable Northern Iraq:

Bomber strikes the Iraqi Parliament, in the heart of the Green Zone. calling into question the success of the ‘security crackdown’ in Baghdad….:

…Despite failure to protect the heavily fortified Green Zone, report says US military is planning on barricading entire Baghdadi neighborhoods, creating “controlled population prisons”

News and Analysis (4/11/07)

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

While Iraq has been hit by some of the hardest fighting between joint US-Iraqi forces and Sunni militants, Sadr’s movement threatens to leave the government and escalate violence in the country:

 

North Africa is rocked by series of terrorist attacks:

 

US-led war on terror has led to pretexts for sidestepping the rule of law at home and abroad:

 

While analysts believe that Ahmedinejad’s rhetoric is making diplomacy much more difficult, Pelosi is unfazed and keeps dialogue with the Iranian leader as an option on the table:

 

In spite of productive speech to Georgetown University students on Islam and Democracy – via satellite – Tariq Ramadan faces criticism:

 

This is how the cartoons regarding the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) should have been handled:

 

In spite of new restrictions, Saudis fight for what little freedom they have from government intrusion into their lives by continuing to hold private discussions:

 

News and Analysis (4/10/07)

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Faced with the realities of a growing young and restless population, the Saudi government makes minimal concession by relaxing some of the country’s ultra-conservative social laws:

The story of a joint Afghan-Dutch patrol’s firefight with Taliban units demonstrates the challenges to achieving security in Afghanistan:

“Concerned by the disappearance of Christians in the land of Christianity’s birthplace, [Rep. Chris] Smith could also become (as I did) concerned by the plight of all Palestinians. If so, he will find precious little company in Congress.” – Robert Novak

An action junkie reporter working for the LA Times as its Iraq bureau chief recalls the necessary steps he took to get his story and come out alive at the same time:

Four Serbian paramilitary men are given jail sentences for their involvement in the killing of captured Bosnian Muslims:

Reports of over ‘1,000 dead’ in Mogadishu, point toward Somalia as a failed state – again: 

Conflicts in Darfur continue, expanding into Chad and the Central African Republic:  

Re-Interpreting the Qur’an from a Female Perspective

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Sarah Swick, Minaret of Freedom Institute, www.minaret.org

For the last part of my blog series on a “Women in Islam” conference I attended, I’d like to highlight another response to how we should understand the Qur’an today. One of the last panels of the conference featured a discussion on re-reading the Qur’an from a female perspective. One particularly interesting member of the panel was Dr. Asma Barlas, author of Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an. As the title of her book suggests, Dr. Barlas argues that patriarchy is not inherent in the Qur’an but rather has been read into it throughout the centuries of patriarchal dominance of Muslim societies.

Dr. Barlas began her argument by reminding the audience that a God who rejects sex and gender as criteria for judgment cannot then teach the oppression of women. Moreover, following other academics, Dr. Barlas reminded us that nowhere in the Qur’an does it say that women were created from men. After building her foundation that the principles of the Qur’an do not treat women unequally, she then highlighted a few verses that have traditionally been used to oppress women. She insists that these verses should be reinterpreted so as not to contradict the principles of the Qur’an.

For example, she highlighted the word “daraja” in Verse 2:228 about divorce:

Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what God Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in God and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And God is Exalted in Power, Wise (2:228)

In this case, daraja translated as ‘degree’ has been used to reinforce a patriarchal system in Muslim society by expanding the ‘degree’ which men have over women to all areas of family, social, economic and political life. Dr. Barlas insists on limiting this ‘degree’ to the context of this verse about divorce. Moreover, she says that this ‘degree’ men have is in terms of the right to rescind or revoke a divorce he initiated. This is supported by the preceding phrase, “And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation.”

Another example that Dr. Barlas highlighted was verse 4:34 of the Qur’an:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For God is Most High, great (above you all). (4:34)

Dr. Barlas spoke about two problems in the translation and interpretation of this verse. The first was “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women,” which has been used by some men to claim authority and/or supremacy over women. Dr. Barlas insists that here the Arabic word used “qawwamoona” should be limited to the context of the verse which highlights men’s obligations financially towards women. She reminded us of other verses of the Qur’an such as 9:71, which states: “The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.”

Also in response to verse 4:34 above, which commonly is interpreted to allow men to ‘beat’ their wives, Dr. Barlas asked why it was that Muslims would choose the ‘worst’ meaning of the word ‘darraba.’ She cited another meaning of ‘darraba’ which means ‘to separate’ as an alternative understanding.

Two other interesting points that Dr. Barlas spoke briefly about were:

1/ She denied that the accusation that women always receive half of the inheritance of men. Citing Dr. Amina Wadud’s work, she said that the Qur’an gives other examples in which women receive equal inheritance.

2/ In response to restrictions on female testimony, Dr. Barlas cited the counter example in Islamic law that a husband’s testimony alone is not enough to prove adultery, whereas the wife can deny it without a witness and her word is the last!

Overall, I found Dr. Barlas’ approach refreshing and engaging. As a student of language and culture, I’ve realized how much of what we understand about a text is formed by the social context within which the text is being read and interpreted. If a man in a highly patriarchal society, reads a text he will most likely understand and interpret the text within that social framework. However, that does NOT mean that it is the ONLY understanding or interpretation of that text. In the West, which is growing less patriarchal by the day (I hope), I agree with Dr. Barlas that it is finally time to unread patriarchy from the Qur’an.