Archive for April, 2009

Wahabism in Salafi Thought

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Prof. Ahmad Moussalli’s purpose was simple, to clarify the distinction between the Salafi and the Wahhabi schools of thought. In essence, Wahabism is a subset of Salafism. Although very similar in nature, the basic difference can be understood in these terms, not all Salafis are Wahabis but all Wahabis are Salafis.

Reverting to what they consider the “golden age of Islam, “Salafis believe Islam was in its purest form during the time period of Muhammad and his companions and the two generations that followed. The belief is that these Muslims possessed an intuitive understanding of Islam through their direct association with the prophet.

Some points of divergence between Wahabis and Salafis occur in how the Qur’an is interpreted and the issue of jurisprudence. Wahabis believe in a literal interpretation of the Qur’an. The Qur’an says Allah created the earth in six days, then he created it in six 24-hour periods, not six stages. The Qur’an speaks about the face of Allah, then Allah must have a physical face whether or not we can imagine what the face looks like. The other branches of salafis believe the Qur’an can be interpreted metaphorically.

On the issue of jurisprudence, Wahabis are against theological development because it inherently contradicts their beliefs in following the companions of Muhammad. In the mind of a Wahhabi, there is no need to expand schools of thought to justify changes in society and culture.

Furthermore Wahabis believe in absolute adherence to the ruler, they are against democracy, plurality, and human rights. They do not believe in any political Islam or the division of powers. Ultimate authority controls both the religious and political aspects of the Wahabis’ ideal society.

The interpretation of text also provides a point of divergence between Salafis and Wahabis.  Salafis believe in using the interpretations from the first three generations of Muslims to understand the meaning of Qur’anic verse. Wahabis take this notion a step further, speaking out against Ijma (consensus). For example, although Muslims generally understand that the earth goes around the sun but the late Saudi mufti Shaikh Bin Baz denied it in print and reputedly even once claimed in a newspaper interview that the earth is flat, an obvious misreading of the Qur’anic verses that “it is He Who spread out the earth” (e.g., 13:3).

Just as one must distinguish between Salafis in general and Wahabis in particular, it is necessary to distinguish between the Wahabis and violent extremists. As was said, the Wahabis oppose revolt against the rulers, but the willingness to label those who reject your interpretation of Islam as “kuffaar” is a first step towards the endorsement of violence against them. Thus it is ironic, but unsurprising, that the violently anti-Saudi al-Qaeda is populated by so many schooled in Wahabi thought.

Except for the unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), there is no one dogma for Islam, no single interpretation of the text of the Qur’an. By challenging over a millennium of Islamic thought, Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab was engaging in an act of ijtihad (original thinking) even if his conclusion was to call for imitation of the first generations of Muslims.

Prof. Mousalli conceded that Abdul Wahab wanted Muslims to engage in ijtihad, yet he and many of his followers seem to be intolerant of those who arrive at conclusions different from theirs. The Islamic faith encourages the intellectual debate and scientific discovery that emerge simultaneously with cultural challenges. It is therefore unfortunate that an estimated $70 billion in petroleum generated revenue has been expended in effect to promote a monopoly on Islamic thought.

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

News and Analysis (4/30/09)

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

A new dialogue coinciding with Israel’s “independence” hopes to expose both sides to the “experiences of the other while not denigrating one’s own” …

… while in the U.S. an advertiser under pressure breaks a contract for a billboard containing political speech:

As British forces announce that majority of the troops will leave by May 31…

…Speculation grows over the accuracy of comparisons between Hussein and al-Maliki:

Sentences issued in a case that largely relied on FBI provocateurs:

Perhaps the Internet might be catalyst needed to end the 27-year-long rule of Mubarak:

Will the Hindu nationalist party see significant boost after the Mumbai attacks?

Why Can’t We Have A Public Debate About Aid to Israel?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In the United States of America, government has no authority to censor the press. Why then is the news media so unwilling to report the news when it reflects badly on the Israeli lobby? When Muslims wanted to boycott Denmark over the cartoons insulting Muhammad it was considered big news, but when an American advertising company breaks its contract with a paid customer because the supporters of continued pillaging of the American taxpayer in order to fund the illegal Israeli occupation don’t want the other side to have their say, we get dead silence.

When I received a press release issued by the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, I googled for a news media report on the story. There was none. Surprised? The coalition paid Lamar Outdoor Advertising for the billboard to be run for eight weeks. Within three weeks it was taken down. According to the coalition, “The design of the billboard had been approved by Lamar and the billboards’ wording and final image were suggested by Lamar’s graphics designer.”

The press release explains: “On April 8th, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel erected the billboards throughout the Albuquerque area in order to inform the public about the misuse of their tax dollars, denominated in human lives. The group was motivated by concern for the Palestinian people who had recently been subjected to a massive invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. Over 1,400 Palestinians – mostly civilian, including three hundred children – were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In 2007 the Bush administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel over a ten-year period beginning in 2008. The majority of these dollars will be used to purchase American-made weapons.

“According to information from Lamar, it appears that pro-Israel groups may have conducted a campaign to pressure Lamar to remove the billboards. The Coalition believes this is a deliberate attempt to silence its right to free speech because the humanitarian message of the billboards supports equal rights for the Palestinian people, thereby necessitating criticism of Israel.”

The dispute between Lamar and the Coalition is a matter of contract law, not central to the mission of this organization. However, the fact that the American media jumps to make hay out of Muslim sensitivity to anti-Muslim propaganda while covering up the debate over the propriety of using money taken with the threat if force from American taxpayers to defend foreign apartheid and aggression which they do not necessarily support (indeed might vehemently oppose if they were allowed to be aware of it) is of direct interest to us. If the mainstream media doesn’t want the American public to know what’s happening in the world, it is up to us to make it known.

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

Elections in Turkey

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Before the elections, which were believed to be local elections with national implications, Prime Minister Erdogan claimed anything under 47% for his AK party would be considered a failure. How then should carrying only 39% percent of the vote, the lowest performance since his party gained power in 2002 be interpreted?

Despite the considerable decline in support, a significant minority in Turkey stand behind the AKP’s performance. Economic issues stand at the heart of Turkish politics. The years of tremendous economic growth no longer characterize Erdogan’s rule with unemployment standing at an uncomfortable 13.6%. Moreover, the elections complete the push for an IMF loan worth as much as $25 billion, aiding Turkish companies to pay off foreign loans and compete in the face of the global recession.

For the first time since his party assumed power, Erdogan will no longer be able to dominate the political landscape. The nearest competitor, the secularist CHP, who accuses the AKP of having a hidden Islamist agenda, increased their winnings to 23%. The election results should make  Erdogan’s agenda to reform the constitution drafted in 1982 by the military and change the way the Constitutional Court works more difficult to complete.  These were largely seen as steps to help improve Turkey’s chances of becoming the first Muslim member of the European Union and are not completely out of reach.

In analyzing the results, the effect of Kurdish voters could not be ignored. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party won in a landslide victory over the AK party in Diyarbakir, 67% to 31% respectively. Incorporating Kurdish voters has been a top priority of Erdogan. Emphasizing equality among Turks and Kurds (also a key point the EU dwells on) Erdogan has initiated a state sponsored Kurdish language channel even offered washing machines for free. Regardless, the DTP’s campaign centered around improving services in the area rather than stressing the Kurdish identity.

Although the extent Erdogan will have to compromise is unknown, he will certainly be forced to be less confrontational. Several ministry changes will be made in response to the results and the opposition is unlikely yield their attacks, hoping to further dislodge support for the AK party. The future success of the AK party is completely dependent on Erdogan’s ability to lead them away from the status quo and into some resemblance of economic growth.

Local elections are very important to Turkish politics and the dramatic decline in support for the AK party could lead a push for early elections but that scenario remains highly unlikely. Severe economic declined requiring IMF loans and record breaking unemployment rates usually do not lead to victories for the ruling parties and I cannot imagine Erdogan conceding to elections before they are required in 2011.

Sorting through all the speculation surrounding the elections and the rule of the AK party, which includes an investigation into a plot to overthrow Erdogan, a clear warning has been sent. Constituting the most homogeneous ruling party in Turkey since perhaps the rule of Ataturk, the AK party is in serious jeopardy of losing control of the government. However, if Erdogan follows his own advise to “take lessons both from achievements and from failures”, the survival of the AK party will not be at stake.

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (4/29/09)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Given the imbalance of power between the sheikh and the grain dealer, the alleged agreement “not to bring formal charges against each other, i.e., theft on the one hand and assault on the other hand'” is alarming:

The court wisely agrees that the need to protect classified information does not automatically lead to throwing out the case:

The Generals are released after three years and eight months without charge:

Because of the dense population around poppy fields, the US risks further alienating Afghani populations with military action:

A Palestinian is caught in an attempt to fraudulently capitalize on the illegal Israeli expansion in the West Bank:

Another step closer to implementing US combat troops in Pakistan:

News and Analysis (4/28/09)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Deteriorating conditions lead to fears over Pakistan’s longevity as a functioning state:

In the Wahhabi dominated Saudi Arabia, Shiites struggle for equality:

Contradicting viewpoints within Fatah and the rising popularity of Hamas have many questioning the dynamic of future Palestinian politics:

“Tunnel business has dropped to 20 percent of what it was before the war on Gaza”:

As progress towards peace remains very treacherous…

…Will Afghanistan experience a competitive election in the country’s second ever presidential ballot?

News and Analysis (4/27/09)

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Prosecution of American soldiers will be the first test of the Ivaguely-worded Iraqi / US security agreement …

… While negotiations begin to consider extending troop stay past the June 30 deadline for Mosul:

If the importance of Palestinian unity was previously undervalued …

… Obama now seeks a change in US foreign policy to allow aid to be distributed to Hamas backed officials in a unity government:

Pakistanis grapple with the idea of a Taliban led assault on the capital city:

Even separate but equal facilities are opposed by Wahabi religious establishment:

The 2009 UN World Development Report shows most Muslim countries have much lower murder rates than most Western nations:

UAE leads the way as arms importations increase by 1/3 over the past four years:

News and Analysis (4/25-26/09)

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Even as the Taliban embarrass Islam with their violations of shariah …

… Rwandan Muslims’ demonstration of Islamic principles attracts enough survivors of Rwanda genocide to double their share of the population to 14%:

“The [previously unreported] American appeal … illustrates what could become one of the biggest obstacles to stability in Iraq”:

“Reza Saberi said his daughter, Roxana began her hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison on Tuesday”:

Hezbollah says “that if the coalition wins, it would invite its opponents to join in a national unity government to ensure stability”:

Iran’s Press TV said the men were members of the separatist Party of Free Life of Kurdistan”

News and Analysis (4/24/09)

Friday, April 24th, 2009

“To hide relevant and exculpatory evidence from counsel and from the court under any circumstances. . . is fundamentally unjust, outrageous and will not be tolerated”:

Clinton indicates negotiations can take place with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas leaders as long as they concede to recognizing Isreal’s right to exist:

Leading the way out of sectarian politics, a group of Lebanon’s Armenians plans to abandon its traditional neutrality and back the Hezbollah-led opposition…

Meanwhile, sectarian divides continue to fragment and weaken the Iraqi government:

How effective is a strategy calling for $1 million per detainee for rehabilitation?

Obama’s desire to avoid the appearance of persecuting his predecessors, but failure to prosecute any criminal activity by senior officials of the previous administration would be an abandonment of the rule of law:

Despite a withdrawal of Taliban militants from Buner …

… critics say the “Pakistani judiciary has been replaced with the Talibanised judicial system in Buner” and “Taliban wants to impose the tribal Shariah of Sufi Mohammad in the entire country by the use of force”:

News and Analysis (4/23/09)

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

As the chronology suggests that the legal opinions were generated after the fact to justify a torture policy already adopted by top officials, Cheney calls for a declassification of memos that he says will prove its efficacy:

Hawks persist among Obama’s top military advisers:

Two days before the 94th anniversary of the start of the massacres, Turkey and Armenia take a major step forward in normalizing relations:

The Israeli count of Palestinian deaths, percentage of civilian deaths, and account of infrastructure damage are still way below Palestinian figures:

Secretary of State Clinton accuses the Pakistani government of “basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists”:

Why the woman was arrested in the first place is as unclear as to how she came to be raped by prison guards and then killed by her brother while still in jail: