Archive for May, 2015

News and Analysis (5/11/15)

Monday, May 11th, 2015

“[F]our anti-Muslim terrorism suspects [taken] into custody[,] … accused of having planned attacks on mosques and asylum seekers … [and] believed to be right-wing extremists … procured explosives for possible terror attacks by the group” according to German police:

“We ask the government to tell them (civil rights groups) to stop. Otherwise, we know how to stop them. I have 7,000 supporters who will obey any orders I give them. I can turn Kabul city upside down” — Ulema Council member Enayatullah Baligh, an adviser to the president and university lecturer:

“It appeared that the student was informed that pork and wine would be in the recipes, but she was only informed that trying prepared dishes was compulsory after the course began”:

“Yemen’s dominant Houthi group accepted a five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by its adversary Saudi Arabia on Sunday but said it would respond to any violations of the pause” …

… after “[t]he Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday it had hit Yemen with 130 air strikes over the previous 24 hours, and a senior UN official said some attacks violated international law. The coalition of Arab states had called on civilians to evacuate Saada” …

A “school in the poor Cairo neighbourhood of Saft al-Laban is founded by activists and provides after-school classes to help plug the gaps left by the city’s overcrowded, underfunded public schools, with smaller classes and better-trained teachers … run by volunteers” with donated funds and equipment”:

Rebels are unhappy that “U.S. officials say the program is part of a broader effort to build a force capable of fighting Islamic State extremists — not President Bashar Assad’s forces whom rebels blame for fanning extremism in Syria and the region”:

“It is not clear whether the time the veteran former leader has already served will count – or whether he will be sent to jail again”:

“At least 40 inmates escaped from a prison in Iraq Saturday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the prison break in which dozens died” but a provincial official claims “that a fight broke out among the inmates of the prison and when guards went to investigate, they were overpowered”:

News and Analysis (5/8/15)

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Writers reject crass exploitation of the Charlie Hebdo atrocities by “some of the most repressive regimes on the planet” and France’s arrest and prosecution ofpeople for expressing unpopular, verboten political viewpoints and … a series of official censorship acts, including the blocking of websites”:

“If the government is correct, it could use [Section 215] to collect and store in bulk any other existing metadata available anywhere in the private sector, including metadata associated with financial records, medical records, and electronic communications (including e-mail …) relating to all Americans”:

“[O]ther physicians and psychiatrists were increasingly reluctant to participate in national security interrogations”:

“Tajikistan is debating legislation to ban Arabic names as part of an ongoing campaign against Islam that has seen men being forced to shave their beards and women in hijab being labelled prostitutes

Eboo Patel asked his grandmother why she was allowing the perfect stranger escaping domestic violence to stay at their house. When she replied, “Because I am Muslim. This is what it means to be merciful. This is what Muslims do,” he “stopped ignoring [his] religion and started aspiring to its ideals”:

“AFDI reported $958,800 in gross receipts and paid Geller a base salary of $192,500 plus $18,750 in other income,” but the “‘the godfather’ of anti-Muslim hate … [David] Horowitz’s Freedom Center in 2013 saw over $7.2 million dollars in gross receipts and Horowitz was paid $525, 000 in salary”:

“The apparent Islamic State threat issued earlier this week on says that 71 soldiers in 15 states, including Michigan, are ‘ready at our word to attack any target we desire,’ according to the anonymous post”:

Some UNSC “members accuse Syria’s government of using chlorine against its own citizens, saying that no other party in the conflict has the helicopters to deliver such weapons. Russia has insisted that more evidence is needed to blame anyone.” The industrial chemical was not included in the earlier UN ban”:

“The Senate voted 98 to 1 to guarantee congressional review, and possibly rejection, of any final Iran deal. It’s a water-tight, veto-proof, majority” but it required shutting “down the amendment process. In other words, it stopped a lot of senators from participating in changing the bill”:

News and Analysis (5/6/15)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

“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

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

[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

News and Analysis (5/4/15)

Monday, May 4th, 2015

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]”:

News and Analysis (4/30/15)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

“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”: