Archive for June, 2015

News and Analysis (6/17/15)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

In a March 2015 TEDtalk, Trevor Aaronson revealed how the FBI manipulates mentally ill and poor Muslim-Americans to set up terrorist attacks…

…And another Muslim man was recently charged by FBI with conspiracy and transportation firearms with the intent to commit a felony:

What does it mean to be a Muslim in America today, with anti-islam rallies and an increase in hate crimes? Here answered by Linda Sarsour:

In Florida, a teenage “girl said she has been verbally and physically assaulted because she wears a hijab, or head scarf, to school” …

… while in Iran, “[o]ne Conservative analyst went on a website to suggest that if a women does not wear the hijab then if a men has sex with her against her will she cannot call it rape’:

Islamic Circle of North America aims to spread the peaceful message of Islam by billboards reading “Kindness is a mark of faith,” and “Muhammad believed in peace, social justice, women’s rights” …

… “I wanted to protect America and fight the ‘bad’ Muslims…. [Yet, i]t was Islam and not Christianity that re-opened my heart and mind to God. Witnessing the sincerity and dedication Muslims had for other human beings enriched my spirituality in a way that I did not think was possible”:

British Muslim group argues that the government has to engage with the Muslim community in order to combat radicalization:

 

News and Analysis (6/16/15)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Former minister Hamid calls Tuesday’s death sentence against Morsi a “nail in the coffin of democracy” and Western diplomats criticize it for the risk it will turn Egypt’s first freely elected President  into a martyr, which could lead to an armed conflict …

… yet the U.S. continues its support of the regime even as the rising number of “disappearances” in the country is reminiscent of fascist Argentina:

Since the January attack on the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, there has been a rise on attacks on the Muslim community. The PM Manuel Valls took the opportunity at a conference to point out that Islam and extremism are not connected:

A Muslim leader’s proposal to provide Frances’s 5 million Muslims with prayer space is opposed by far-right politicians, but welcomed by Christian ministers:

While still grieving, family of 17-year-old ISIS suicide bomber points out that “Isis did not represent Islam or Muslims ‘in any way, shape of form'” …

… Lady Warsi “urged ministers to reach out to Muslim communities rather than disengage with groups as she said they have been doing for the past seven years”:

Scott Shane portrays the Muslim community in Boston – their fear of further stigmatization of Muslims, the conflicts within the community, and the prejudice in the public:

Since the sun is up for around 18 hours in UK and never sets in northern Sweden during the summer – fasting for Muslims can be very hard:

News and Analysis (6/15/15)

Monday, June 15th, 2015

With difficulty, UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon is aiming for a truce in Yemen. “I’m urging them that, particularly during this Ramadan — which is a period for peace for people, and praying for peace — they must stop,” Ki-Moon told reporters:

Critics argue “that the government’s promotion of ‘British values’ serves as a coded attack on Muslim communities, depicting Islam as diametrically opposed to the spirit of the nation” and is increasing persecution of Muslims in the UK …

… as evidenced in one disturbing poll:

“It could have been easily resolved by just speaking to parents. Now we have another negative story against the Muslim community – as if we don’t have enough already”:

Jerusalem municipality schedules popular running event when practicing Muslims cannot attend: “The run begins exactly when the first day of the fast ends and the meal begins, so running is out of the question for our Muslim members”– Israel Haas, CEO of Runners without Borders:

Prime Minister Netanyahu says: “Whoever wants a baseless automatic accusation against Israel can waste their time reading the U.N. report.” about UN Report on the 2014s Gaza war:

Israel is facing criticism for passing a bill that will legalize force-feeding hunger strikers, primarily Palestinians, in prison. NGO Physicians for Human Rights states it will “legalise torture and gross violations of medical ethics and international conventions”:

“Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, said its fighters had violated the jihadist group’s directives when they killed 20 Druze villagers last week and would face a Sharia court”:

News and Analysis (6/14/15)

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

“The International Criminal Court indicted Omar al-Bashir over crimes committed in Darfur, but the Sudanese president is unlikely to face arrest in South Africa… The United States’ decision not to sign the ICC’s Rome Statute has caused resentment among African states”:

Pakistan did not specify the reasons for its accusation the group ha acted against the nation’s interests, leading ti speculation the closing Save the Children’s main office was shut down was the group’s suspected connection to America’s extra-judicial execution of bin Ladin:

Angry at the U.S.-backed attacks, Erdogan had the army block roads into Turkey, insisting that the Kurds fighting against ISIS constitute a potential border threat:

“What I did was place people out of danger and ensure their safety—something everybody can do when they find themselves in such an extreme situation…. [F]or me, this is a normal and humane response”:

Students trying to return to school and patients  in need of medical treatment are among those welcoming the reopening of the Raffah Crossing:

“Since the recent controversy, NGO head Mohammad Akhtar (38) is not forcing Muslim participants to recite ‘Om’ while practicing surya namaskar…. Muslim participants have been asked to either recite ‘Allah’, ‘ayat’ or any word they wish to or not say anything at all while practicing surya namaskar and meditation”:

Fiqh al-Zakah in India and the Emergence of New Applied Ethics of Socioeconomic Justice: Case Studies of Islamic Charities

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

[This is the tenth 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.]

“Fiqh al-Zakah in India and the Emergence of New Applied Ethics of Socioeconomic Justice: Case Studies of Islamic Charities”

Christopher Taylor, Boston University.

I ask you to reconsider zakat as the purity ethic and the development ethic as a change in tradition. Imagine fiqh as variegated, which is different from how the masses in India view it. The donor is purified and the wealth is purified in the traditional view. In the developmental view, focus is on the development of the recipient. I think attention to zakat is increasing, and Pew reports more Muslims give zakat than engage in their prayers. I worked in Lucknow. Many people were familiar with the reformist discourses. The Society for Divine Welfare had a regular charity event. Contrary to the hadith to give with your right hand so the left does not know what you have done, the distributions were not so secret. They gave out sewing machines, rickshaws, and vegetable carts. In some cases the donors themselves distributed the goods. There was local news coverage, although names were not printed.

At first blush one thinks that the Indian charities are mimicking the charitable methods of the West, but I suggest the practices come out of indigenous tradition. The obligation itself is well established in scripture. Purification itself is clear in scripture. Shafi compared zakat to wudu. Even the verse for the Prophet to take charity (sadaqa, 9:103) refers to purification. Hallaq claims it is uniquely both ibâdat (ritual) and mu`amalât (action). Traditionally, it is the ibâdat that is the most important part.

In addition to the hadith quoted there are at least two verse in the Qur’an that reminders of charity or consequent injury invalidates the virtue. Also a verse says that while open charity is good, secret is better, and Ghazali writes on this at length, as do others. Obligation on the donor, purification of wealth, and the commendation of secrecy pull the spotlight away from the recipient onto the donor. [Warning against] pretending to be needy is the only example I could find of scripture addressed to recipients as opposed to donors.

Charity is being routinized into organizations. Questions about the worthiness of recipients and how they used the gifts demonstrate the change to a development paradigm. Charity can even be damaging to the recipient. Do application forms or accounting shame the recipients?  When I asked Maulana Jaanghir, a very influential preacher, why he did what he did, he said the first duty [of the believer] is to earn income in a halal way and the first duty [of the teacher] is to teach the poor how to stand on their own lest they go to Hell. He sees fiqh as silent as to how recipients should use zakat. He gave a sermon warning against selling the tools distributed for cash. He acknowledges that the zakat is the right of the recipient, but he used his moral authority to urge them to use it in the best way. He defended the public distribution because donors are concerned about corruption. There were many other donors who did not want to go to such events.

Practices and teachings on zakat are particularly good reminders of the diversity and flexibility of Shariah, even within the confines of fiqh as it has been traditionally imagined. The ulama and the students and teachers of fiqh are creative in balancing moral criteria within the traditions. They do not see it as Westoxification. Why do I say this is a change? Was zakat not always seen as social development by the Prophet? Yes, but Said Arjomand in Public Policy in Islam says it is surprising that waqf rather than zakat and sadaqah became the basis of development.

Respondents.

Samy Ayoub, University of Arizona. I like the distinction between purification and developmental ethics. Does moving charity to the public sphere give the ulama more power?

Taylor. I treat zakat as a metonym for charity in general, which isn’t the local usage, because the niyat is what distinguishes zakat from sadaqa. I prefer to look from the perspective of the ulama themselves. Zakat is the head of financial worship with sadaqa and nafli coming afterward. As to the shaming issue, the recipients recognize the need for working too.

General Discussion.

[Name withheld]. Zakat is a pillar of Islam, is fixed and specific with regard to the categories. Nation states can enforce it. It is useful to separate zakat from sadaqa.

[Name withheld]. Zakat and sadaqa are used interchangeably in the Qur’an. Not letting the left hand know what the right is doing goes back to the Christian gospels. The khums is besides zakat, and is really for the descendents of the Prophet, and has given the Shia religious establishment independence the Sunni establishment does not have.

[Name withheld]. What Muslims are doing with charity is what the Hindus are doing with their caste system. It is donated to their own community and will return to them. Zakat has an economic implication beyond purification. It is the only instrument to push people to invest rather than accumulate wealth at home since there is no riba.

[Name withheld]. The role of the ulama is important in India. 4% of the population is in madrassas, which is historically low, accompanied by a disdain for the ulama as scholars, so the purpose of my emphasis on an `alim (scholar) at the head of a zakat institution is to show it is reinvigorating the ulama’s role in the public sphere as compared to waqf. Waqf is primarily for the financial elites, whereas zakat is squarely in the realm of the ulama.  There are Ajlaf and Ashraf (lower and upper) castes. Being a sayyid is also very significant. They keep sadaqa and zakat accounts separate.

[Name withheld]. When business men said they were afraid of corruption; why don’t they give directly to the poor?

[Name withheld]. Umar ibn Khatab for three consecutive years sent the zakat back to the treasury, but in the fourth year spent it on roads, etc., as did Umar IV.

[Name withheld]. In Indonesia they took mandatory zakat from the salaries of employees. Did you encounter anything like this in India? Also address nikkah sirri (secret marriage).

[Name withheld]. These questions are great. Zakat has double meaning, to increase and to purify. The question of the use of zakat for public works is fantastic and Yusuf Qaradawi had a public teaching session in Lucknow and responded to a question about use of zakat for public works (he also supports building mosques in non-Muslim countries) as opposed to the Hanafi position. Their debate is written in a pamphlet. The Deobandi scholar Tanwi says if you gave zakat to a sayyid or a relative by mistake, it is still valid if your niyat  (intention) was right. Abu Yusuf has a different opinion.

[Name withheld]. I spent two months in Lucknow with a student kept saying he was an orphan.

[Name withheld]. He was trying to get sadaqa.

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

News and Analysis (6/12/15)

Friday, June 12th, 2015

The terrorist group Boko Haram’s suicide bombings in Maiduguri, Nigeria, have recently increased, now using women and girls to do the bombings…

…Meanwhile, President Buhari has set up a joint military force along with Nigeria’s neighboring countries to fight Boko Haram. Buhari, inaugurated only two weeks ago, has concentrated on this issue which has led to cracks within his own party, APC:

Human Rights Watch reports that they suspect that Raif Badawi will receive the next set of lashes on Friday. The Saudi regimes continues to violate human rights extensively, despite the criticism received from UN and others:

Abdelaziz Aouragh and Mona Eltahawy discuss the limitations and opportunities of sexuality that contemporary Muslim societies and Islamic texts present to us:

“We need to recover the absolute values that make Abrahamic monotheism the humanising force it has been at its best”:

A 17-year-old in Virginia has supported Daesh via social medias as well as instructed on how to transfer money to the organization through the digital currency BitCoin:

This is the second time this tear Bahrain has stripped Shia Bahrainis of their citizenship under color of National security:

Rory McCarthy discusses Tunisia’s democracy and the future of the Islamist party Ennahda in Tunisia after they lost the general election last year.

“A delegation representing a few Muslim groups … supported the suggestion made by the [Union Minister of State for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy Shripad Naik] that Namaz had eight yoga postures”:

With the help from students from University of Minnesota College of design, middle-school students who wear hijab design sports wear that will enable them to play basketball freely:

News and Analysis (6/11/15)

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

In the prospect of a new President in 2017, Ian Bremmer calls for a new approach to US Foreign Policy, preferably a less interventionist one – the Independent America approach …

… but the Obama administration sends 450 additional troops to Iraq to fight ISIL, stressing that it is not combat, but training troops in the hope of engaging the Sunni Iraqi population in the fight against IS:

In fear of upsetting voters who blame the previous labor government in UK for “its failure to control mass immigration”, former labor leader Miliband refrained from doing a photo shoot at the Brighton Pavilion because it looked “too much like a mosque”:

After the introduction of the new Counter-terrorism and Security Act, UK schools consider software that will flag terms connected to radicalization and introduces anti-radicalization workshops for parents (of students as young as four-year-old) …

… Anything from not celebrating Christmas to shunning art and drama is now grounds for suspicion, and reason enough to invade the “private space” of British Muslims”

Indonesia is working towards making Islamic banks hold 15 % of the banking assets of the country, as opposed to today’s mere 5 %; they will promote the industry while increasing regulation:

Akbar Ahmed highlights Islam’s influence on Western culture in literature, philosophy, and politics, and explains why we “need to appreciate the cultural and intellectual sophistication of Muslim civilization when it was widely acknowledged as the most advanced in Europe”:

While Israel and the Gulf States”sparred in public — Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ military operation had just claimed more than 1,400 lives in the Gaza Strip and was condemned by Saudi Arabia, in a letter to the United Nations, as “fierce aggression” — they enjoyed ‘good personal relations’ behind closed doors” …

… “Israel’s strategic position has never been so good … thanks to the diversions and divisions of the wars in Syria and Iraq, the jihadis of the Islamic State, collapse in Libya and conflict in Yemen. It has benefited too from the Egyptian military’s crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the squeeze on Hamas”:

Since the Peshawar Taliban attack by in 2014, the number of executions through death penalty in Pakistan has risen considerably:

While the violence in the Syrian Civil War continues, women dressed in white were seen peacefully protesting the violence:

News and Analysis (6/10/15)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Zach Hunt asks Christians to imagine how they would feel were people to use the actions of a few extremist to represent the whole faith:

The ban has sparked debate nationally and internationally. Among the skeptics of the ban is Ayesha Akhtar: “’As much as I dislike burqas and niqabs’ she said, ‘the idea of a government banning burqas makes me cringe'”:

Since the AKP lost their majority, the future of the country’s foreign policy is unclear. President Erdogan’s quest to spread to make the AKP a model for political Islam throughout the region may now change as well as the nation’s relationships to Syria, the Islamic world, and USA:

For several years, the Syrian city Aleppo has been a battleground for the rebels and the Syrian government. With Daesh (ISIS) advancing around the city, and the Syrian government intensifying the battle against the rebel forces, there is concern that Daesh will eventually be able to take over the city.

In Australia, there is a “growing chorus of criticism by some government ministers and backbenchers, legal experts and community groups, over attempts to increase executive powers to revoke citizenship of suspected terrorists”:

The “human rights group Reprieve said two witnesses who implicated Bahadur had since recanted, saying they were tortured”:

“[T]he actions of the authorities have only highlighted their desperate attempts to create a criticism-free zone around the games” — Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia:

News and Analysis (6/8/15)

Monday, June 8th, 2015

“Retired Saudi general Anwar Majed Eshki and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold publicly announced that since the beginning of 2014, representatives from Israel and Saudi Arabia have had five secret bilateral meetings to discuss Iran in India, Italy, and the Czech Republic”:

“The majority of those killed in Sunday’s air strikes were soldiers who were at the headquarters to collect their pay cheques, Saba news agency said” …

… “The Saudi-led air campaign and ground fighting have killed more than 1,000 civilians and displaced more than 1 million people since mid-March, … [but] has so far failed to force the Houthis to withdraw from any territory they hold or blunt their advance in southern Yemen”:

“Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression” — Philip Luther, Amnesty International. Badawi’s wife had hoped “that the advent of Ramadan and the arrival of a new king would bring a pardon for the prisoners of conscience”:

“[E]l-Sissi issued a rare apology Sunday over a police officer beating a lawyer with a shoe last week, an attack that sparked a general one-day strike by the country’s lawyers”:

“[T]he ruling AK Party … failed to win an outright majority in a parliamentary election for the first time. Erdogan, Turkey’s most popular modern leader but also its most divisive, had hoped a crushing victory for the AKP would allow it to change the constitution and create a … U.S.-style presidency”:

The “line of brave brothers and sisters of other faiths standing in front of the mosque, demonstrating more of what [Americans] are about than anything the anti-Islam crowd could muster… That’s the solution to situations like this. Not Congress. Not the Department of Justice”:

“While secular feminism has been the main approach to the quest for women’s rights in the United States, ‘faith-based feminism’ is the preferred tactic for a growing number of Afghan women looking to make a change in the country”:

“Israel’s defense, when it claims it is a democracy, is that the West Bank is not part of Israel — just as Iraq was not part of the United States after the 2003 invasion. But … Israel builds towns there: about a half-million Israelis live either in West Bank settlements or in … land incorporated into east Jerusalem” …

… and now the daughter of a Zionist immigrant to Israel has made a “heart-wrenching documentary, On the Side of the Road, [that] reveals the Big Lie at the heart of the myth of the creation of Israel”, and a “proposed law will make it illegal to mourn ‘the catastrophe’ on [Israel’s] Independence Day”:

“Libya used to bankroll Africa. Now it begs for aid. Landlords hold out to rent to the government which is willing to pay high prices, but the average person is facing major problems”:

News and Analysis (6/5/15)

Friday, June 5th, 2015

“A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a ‘Salafist principality’ in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq”:

Two of the demonstrators who had worn profanity-laced T-shirts to the anti-Islam demonstration in Phoenix explain how a visit to the mosque has changed their hearts. They still believe in the right to vile speech, but they no longer want to engage in it against Islam or Muslims themselves …

… and even the organizer of the event now thinks both the obscene T-shirts and the draw-Muhammad contest were “distasteful” and “stupid”:

“United Airlines says the flight attendant who allegedly denied a Muslim woman an unopened can of soda will no longer serve customers on their planes” …

… while Jon Stewart congratulates another victim of anti-Muslim discrimination on having “won the right to spend eight hours a day in a cloud of cologne selling pink polo shirts to guys named Chad”:

“If Myanmar can insist that the Rohingya must call themselves  Bengalis until granted citizenship by the Buddhists, maybe white Americans should call themselves ‘Europeans’ until granted citizenship by the Native Americans”:

“One of Daesh’s strategic objectives appears to be to take the area north of Aleppo, stretching to the Turkish border, including the major checkpoint there[, to] cut Daesh’s rebel rivals off from resupply via Turkey in that area, allowing Daesh to finish them off[, by] … starving them of key military supplies”:

Houthis and their domestic opponents have agreed to join U.N. peace talks amid unverified reports that coalition “bombings killed around 58 people across Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday … [including] 48 people, most of them women and children … in the Houthi heartland in the rural far north …

… as “twenty million Yemenis, nearly 80% of the population, are now in urgent need of food, water and medical aid, in a humanitarian disaster which aid agencies say has been dramatically worsened by a naval blockade imposed by an Arab coalition with US and British backing”:

“In a world in which we hear much about conflict, differences and divisions, this story of a truly loving relationship between an elderly Jewish lady and her Muslim neighbours has succeeded in lifting my spirits and renewing my faith in the essential goodness and kindness of human beings” …

… but while Britain frees itself of the imposition of one interpretation of Jewish law on its Jewish citizens, we must ask why does Saudi Arabia, alone among Muslim majority countries, still impose that law on its Muslim citizens:

[M]ore countries ban forms of Muslim veils than the number of countries which force women to wear them…. Women of all different backgrounds, ages, countries, and different careers” feel frustrated at “being kept out of the very narratives that purport to be about [them] and [their] supposed ‘oppression'”:

“President Erdogan … has suggested that higher interest rates cause higher inflation. He has also described the defence of higher rates as treason.” The former claim is the reverse of what economists and investors generally believe while the later is seen as part of his move to “effectively ‘Putinise’ Turkey”: