Archive for November, 2018

Emir abd El-Kader: A Teacher for the World (A Story of True Jihad)

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

[On September 12, 2018 the Abd Elkader Project held a seminar  introducing  the Muslim scholar turned fighter turned PoW, turned exile, turned hero to the world, honored by Abraham Lincoln with a gift of dueling pistols and by a small town in Iowa that named itself after him, and by the International Red Cross for being the man whose humane treatment of prisoners of war according to Islamic law inspired the Geneva Conventions. The following account is my impressions of the highlights of the program and is not intended as a transcript.]

Civil Society Voices.

Tamara Shehadah (Our Muslim Voices and The Abdelkader Ambassador Program) said that Abdelkader’s parents taught him to seek and respect diversity. The Abdelkader Ambassador Program focuses on bridge building between different people and cultures, starting with food. She quoted Emir Abdelkader: “Knowledge is the box, the keys are the questions.”

James Patton (International Center for Religion & Diplomacy) explained that telling stories of faith heroes can be a bulwark against recruitment for extreme and violent groups. He feels that the key to encouraging the young by Emir Abdelkader’s example is to present him as one who struck a balance between piety and strength. Promoting him as a model among young people unaccustomed to taking historical figures as heroes may be done through new media. The celebrated values of the Emir could be advanced by highlighting current figures who share his values.

Daisy Khan (WISE), focused on the need to flesh out heroes in the current climate. Muslims around the world are unable to mention a single hero other than the Prophet Muhammad. There are two busts in headquarters of the Red Cross: its founder Henry Dunant and Emir Abdelkader, whom Dunant credited as the inspiration for the Geneva Conventions. He insisted on the respectful treatment of prisoners. He was also admired by an American lawyer in Dubuque who named his settlement in Iowa after him. When the Emir died, the New York Times called him one of the great men of the century. Explaining his protection of Christians, he said, “That which we did for the Christians we did to be faithful to Islamic law.” He believed that after spiritual knowledge the most important knowledge is political knowledge. He was deeply Muslim but he also grew while in prison in France. He saw no conflict among religion, science, and politics, although he “discovered that politics shrinks the spirit while the sacred enlarges it without limit.”

Tamar Miller (AEP) said her first visit to Iowa was to Elkader. She proposed a list of questions to provoke reflection on Emir Abdelkader, starting with “What? Iowa, Islam and Muslims?” Think about the fact that the Mother Mosque of America is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Reflect on the power of words to evoke (jihad, shariah, hijab, ijtihad, etc.). Why did Emir Abdelkader lay down arms after seventeen years? Why did Lincoln give the Emir a pair of colt pistols?

Azhar Hussein (Peace & Education Foundation, Pakistan) spoke of Abdelkader’s Reception in Pakistan. An Urdu version of John Kiser’s book, Commander of the Faithful, was introduced into Pakistan. Al Shariah magazine wrote three articles about the book. An al-Qaeda propagandist criticized the Emir for giving up his fight against the French. Hussein’s organization seeks to expand the program by engagement with religious leaders and work with madrassas. They met with a salafi leader who has completely turned around by the Emir’s story.

Lakhdar Brahimi (Former Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister and UN diplomat) explained that Algeria’s struggle for independence in the 1950s and 60s was a continuation of his struggle against French occupation in the 19th century. If Abdelkader has been Algeria’s George Washington, his struggle took several generations and it is not over today. He is a leader for the 21st century, but not the only one. Among today’s youth are a tiny minority who speak of jihad as random acts of violence and cruelty. (At times the desire to understand is seen as a desire to condone.) There was a call in France to amend the Qur’an put out by those who seem to have no familiarity with it. Are those who divide their compatriots against one another fighting terrorism or are the planting the seeds of further radicalism? Brahimi quoted Muhammad Arkoun’s phrase “the clash of ignorances” (ignorance not only of the Other but of contexts).

“The forms of worship may change but not the Master.”–Emir AbdelKader

Andrea Bartoli, Ph.D. (Seton Hall School of Diplomacy) said that Emir Abdelkader invites us to look at the military in a much different way, something closer to the origin of America when the military was much closer to the people. What do you do when your country is invaded? The Emir’s answer is to look to knowledge–not just military knowledge, but to know your enemy, which is difficult when you are talking about people far away and speaking in another language. The French wondered who is this person who is treating prisoners well and challenging us to do the same. He taught Europeans how to treat prisoners in a way that years later we call the Geneva Conventions. History is made when years later we go back and ask the meaning of what happened. It is appropriate for a Catholic to be speaking at a Protestant seminary about a Muslim and to be grateful we are not killing one another. We need to deepen the American conversation because America is very important. Religious freedom comes to Catholics through American Catholics. Look at how many Sunnis outside America do not consider Shi’a to be Muslims.

Major Matthew H. Peterson (US Marine Corps–NOT speaking for the Marine Corps) told how John Kiser read an article he had written on cultural knowledge and the value of relying on knowledge from people in the region and doing cultural training in advance. “The Cargo Pocket Koran” was born of his meeting with Daisy Khan. Major Peterson noted that whenever we were successful on the battlefield it was because of people we knew and not because of superior firepower. The Qur’an is too big for an infantryman to carry on his back, and thus the need for a condensation that would fit into the pocket of his cargo pants. In primitive languages the word for stranger and enemy are the same. Next year we will be sending young men and women to Afghanistan who were not even born on 9/11. There are one million members in the military compared to a thousand in the state department. The face of America is an armed 19-year-old from a conservative Christian state. For Peterson, the Emir’s main contribution is in the area of just war theory. There are just wars fought unjustly and unjust wars fought justly. John McCain said, “War is wretched beyond description.” Sun Tzu also argues the mastery of war is to win without firing a shot. You can’t defeat thought with military weaponry.

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

News and Analysis (11/28/18)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Khashoggi killing revelations pile up:

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani warns that lest worker’s legitinmate demands “become an excuse and an instrument for the enemy and creation of disorder in the country … the government must address workers’ problems ‘immediately'”:

A study of Duncan Hunter’s Islam-bashing ad shows that while Democrats who merely “watched the ad were nine points less likely to support Hunter, … Republicans’ support for Hunter dropped 22 points after they read criticism of the ad”:

Haji Mohammad Salish called for banning the Social Democratic Party of India after it protested the play, saying, “Our Constitution has given the right to practise religion freely. If a girl has performed azaan in a play, it is not against Islam”:

A “federal judge says despite ‘serious reservations’ he is dismissing the suit. The judge writes that active-duty personnel, even trainees, cannot sue the military in civil court”:

“Israeli rights group B’Tselem said the high court was “sanctioning the broadest move to dispossess Palestinians since 1967”, when Israel occupied the city, the West Bank and Gaza Strip” …

… “It is difficult to imagine obtaining justice for prisoners when the very foundation of Israel violates international humanitarian law”:

News and Analysis (11/25/18)

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

“The blacklist has become especially frightening, some activists said, because it’s being used by law enforcement in Israel and the United States”:

“In a historic move, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) may filibuster against massive aid package to Israel. AIPAC issues action alert to pressure Paul, predicts Congress will pass the aid package – largest in US history”:

“Kosovo authorities claim no citizen has joined a fundamentalist group over the past two years, a development partly attributed to the empowering of women through the creation of female Islamic teachers”:

Breitbart falsely accused Ilhan of “arguing against a 2017 bill banning female genital mutilation” for which she actually “had voted in the affirmative to pass….” She responded, “I am perplexed by the number of ‘reporters’ who are so allergic to the truth … Do better, just do better!”:
Javad Zarif “said that allegations about weapons of mass destruction ‘by a country that supported Iraq’s use of CW (chemical weapons) against Iran, then invaded Iraq to allegedly rid it of them is not just obscene, it’s dangerous'” …

… while an analyst’s review of their respective promises over the decades concludes that “Tehran has repeatedly delivered on its promises, while Washington has fallen short and backed Riyadh’s disastrous regional adventures”:

“Israel’s refusal to allow the return of a ‘significant number’ of refugees, as called for by the United Nations Conciliation Commission – created under Resolution 194 – compelled the world body to adopt the humanitarian-aid option”:

“By visiting Tunisia, the group said Bin Salman aims to ‘get out of his isolation’ following the widespread criticism he has faced on charges of involvement in the assassination of Khashoggi”:

“[E]ven if one concedes that at some point … [Xinjiang] had been under Chinese control, a millennium later the people living there did not feel Chinese, look Chinese, speak Chinese, share Chinese values and myths and stories, or, by and large, want be part of China. Thus began a series of rebellions”:

“Israeli forces detained Ghaith in a dawn raid on his home in Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem on Sunday. The Israeli military did not provide any details about the reason for the governor’s detention”:

News and Analysis (11/22/18)

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Thirty years ago “soft power” was associated with “the infectious attractiveness of American music, films and youth culture,” but today many associate the term with “religious soft power in the realm of Islam” projected by Saudi Arabia and Iran”:

Iran resorts to gas rationing instead of ending its absurd gasoline subsidies that push prices at the pump down to under  2 cents per gallon, but fuel “very high levels of smuggling …. Much of it heads across the border to Pakistan, where petrol costs 10 times, and diesel around 40 times, as much as” …

… and “Iran’s labor law does not recognize the right to create labor unions independent of government-sanctioned groups such as the Islamic Labor Council”:

European “[o]fficials acknowledge that European action against Iran over the Denmark operation could well be stronger if the Trump administration wasn’t bullying them on their policies towards Tehran, and other matters such as trade and defence spending”:

“The Quran has 6,236 verses, none of which tell the faithful to stifle blasphemy by force” …

… and “Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa reminded [Malay] Muslims” that Islamic law requires a system of “rahmatan lil alamin” under which everyone prospers” and that “prohibits any form of discrimination based on faith, descent or differences” …

.. yet “[p]olice have arrested four Finnish nationals … for allegedly distributing religious material in a public place”:

Iran’s FM tweeted that Trump “bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of. Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests— just like the Finns do?” …

… in response to Trump statement defending the Saudi dictator in the murder of a journalist, an act by which Trump “has explicitly done the precise opposite of acting like an isolationist: he’s taken a side in the great power struggle in the Middle East”:

In a mostly Buddhist nation Muslim woman promotes sex education and in the process “has also become something of an ambassador for religious understanding”:

The Catholic convert to Islam “was granted the exemption after waiting years for approval”:

The High Court decision will allow “legal proceedings to evict 700 Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, even though the process by which it received rights to the land was flawed and raises many questions”:

“Rouhani was quoted on Friday by state television as saying that he wants to raise bilateral trade between the two countries from the current $12bn to $20bn in the coming year”:

Although “U.S. sanctions permit Iranian purchases of humanitarian goods like medicines,” precautions to avoid “accidentally triggering penalties …, along with panic buying and hoarding, mean some drugs are increasingly difficult to find”:

News and Analysis (11/19/18)

Monday, November 19th, 2018

The PA’s plan to force Palestinians into a social security system squeezes workers already saddled with debt with no way to guarantee a payoff in their old age:

“The Trump administration says the point of these sanctions is to punish the Iranian government. But, Kamyab says they’re actually punishing [American] business owners like him” …

… and “[w]ith commercial ties dating back to the ancient Silk Road, many Chinese companies have said that they will still find a way to do business in Iran, despite the threat of US punitive actions” …

… while in Iran four have been arrested as U.S. sanctions are pushing workers into the arms of socialism as employees “at Iran’s oldest sugar cane company went on strike on Saturday over unpaid wages, calling for the troubled factory to be nationalised”–hardly the regime change we want:

The “change, proposed by Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim, clarifies the 180-year-old rule against wearing hats on the House floor to allow for religious headwear, including headscarves”:

The Chinese government claims those in the camps are taught Mandarin and given “vocational training to help them get a job” but those who have been held in the camps report indoctrination and say “they were constantly hungry. And before they allowed them to eat, they had to chant, long live Xi Jinping” …

… and one city now demands that anyone guilty of such “crimes” as living “in accordance with the Koran, … banning alcohol, smoking and dancing at weddings[, or] … rejecting government provided housing, subsidies and cigarettes or booze as being ‘haram’ … turn themselves in” within 30 days:

“In recent months, some European banks have refused to process payments even from Iranian firms that are exempt from sanctions out of fear of U.S. penalties, according to people familiar with the transactions”:

“The announcement … is aimed at legitimizing some illicit gold mining activity in the country as well as creating more jobs and giving a boost to the economy. … “Coin demand was healthy as the Iranian central bank increased the amount of gold coins released to the market”:

News and Analysis (11/16/18)

Friday, November 16th, 2018

A “record 55 Muslims won election last week from federal to local offices” …

… the victories of Muslim women have been especially meaningful to Muslim girls:

The first note said “You are a terrorist.” The second said “I will kill you.” The police have been called in but the girl’s family “says they just want the person responsible to come forward, so they can turn this into a learning experience” …

… while in Israel a “proudly Zionist” school bullies two of its students for silently demonstrating solidarit with Palestinian victims of Israeli brutality:

The Trump administration seems willing to buy the Saudi retread of the story that Khashoggi’s murder was not premeditated but Congress is not:

In classical Muslim society there were numerous cases of Jewish senior ministers. Morocco has one right now:

The legislation asks the State Department to consider targeted sanctions for individuals responsible for alleged human rights abuses in China” and for “an interagency report on the number of persons detained in the camps, camp conditions, and the number who are arbitrarily detained”:

“The Saudis are very angry at Trump. They don’t trust him any more and feel very strongly about a cut. They had no heads-up about the waivers”–an anonymous “senior source”:

What could possibly motivate Iran to support Sunni extremists like the Taliban? A Woodrow Wilson International Center Scholar suggest the answer is U.S. foreign policy:

“Amnesty called the trial ‘inherently unfair’ because they were denied access to lawyers of their choosing and had no chance to appeal the court’s ruling. Additionally, the televised ‘show trials’ were alleged to be embarrassing to the prisoners”:

A pollster reports that over the past three years Iraqi “Shiites who believe that Iran is a reliable partner in Iraq has decreased sharply, from 76 percent to 43 percent, over the same period. Those who believe that Iran is not a reliable partner increased from 24 percent to 55 percent”:

The Passing of Sulayman Nyang: Connecting the Dots

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Yesterday we laid in the ground the physical body of one of the most influential American Muslims of our time. Prof. Sulayman Nyang, for many years the head of the Dept. of African Studies at Howard University, was a member of the Minaret of Freedom Institute Board of Advisers for almost its entire history. He was a force in the Muslim community in America and his passing constitutes the loss of a scholar, a teacher, and an inspiration.

For us at the Minaret of Freedom Institute, we will miss his enthusiasm. When other Sunni Muslims tried to discourage us from the unprecedented inclusion of the general public at American University in 2007 for a discussion of Sunni-Shi’a relations on the grounds that it “would only make things worse” Prof. Nyang enthusiastically jumped into the program which was such a success that ISNA emulated it two months late. Later, when the Amman Declaration was issued declaring that there are eight schools of Islam, not just the Sunni or Shia schools, Br. Sulayman eagerly urged us “to connect the dots” from our breakthrough at American University to Detroit to Amman.

“Connect the dots” became a persistent theme for Sulayman as he urged us all to put all the little pieces of the events happening around us into the big picture. He did this with a deep knowledge of history, a pastoral appreciation for the human spirit, an activist’s commitment to fairness and justice, and a refreshing sense of humor. When we published Islam and the Discovery of Freedom he urged me to consider writing a paper on “How to Be an Entrepreneur Without Being White.”

A man of immense energy, Sulayman not only supported the Minaret of Freedom Institute, but served on the boards of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. Despite his ill health in recent years he continued to show up at events urging us to connect the dots.

As I observed the galaxy of Muslim intellectuals, activists and community leaders at the funeral, I considered how every one must have been touched by Sulayman Nyang’s erudition, insights, and integrity. We are the dots connected by Sulayman’s great life. His spirit lives on.

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

News and Analysis (11/14/18)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

The new Congress may gave us a glimpse into a conflict between the imperialism of Carolyn Maloney’s “feminism from above, bestowed on black and brown women by white ones” and “the progressivism of [Ilhan] Omar and [Rashida] Tlaib represents feminism from below“:

“Many critics and observers … believe that the new token, controlled by the government, would take away some cryptocurrency characteristics, including anonymity and decentralization”:

“The Islamic Revolutionary Court … executed Vahid Mazloumin and his “accomplice” Mohammad Esmaeil Ghasemi … [on charges] ‘disrupting the economic, foreign currency and monetary system’ through ‘illegal deals and massive smugglings of foreign currencies and gold coins'”:

“If Tehran pulls out of the 2015 deal, it could have a weapon in a matter of months”:

“The MEK’s efforts over the past two decades to convey a benign public image completely at odds with this internal reality … has required money—lots of it” including an estimated $180,000 paid to John Bolton “for his multiple appearances on behalf of the group.”:

Palestinians are willing to accept the Egyptian brokered ceasefire but Israel uses the violence it unleashed by its deadly raid on Gaza as an excuse for war:

“Inspired by Mu’min’s own upbringing within a thriving Black Muslim community in the Bay Area, Jinn examines how identity is formed by religion, family, and relationships”:

News and Analysis (11/12/18)

Monday, November 12th, 2018

A “century after Muslim soldiers from South Asia, North Africa and elsewhere went to war for their colonial masters, a U.K.-based campaign is working to shed light on their oft-overlooked sacrifices”:

An Israeli social media expert was present at meetings held a “year before the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, [between] senior Saudi intelligence officials close to [MbS and] … a group of businessmen to discuss the potential use of private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies” …

… and now among those stepping forward to help MbS “to escape consequences for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi … have been fellow Arab dictators, such as Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi[,] … cynical opportunists, like Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin,” and, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu:

Advising followers not to fear accusations that they are “bigots or racists” the proposer of the purge declares, “We’re patriots who don’t allow jihadists to play in the fields of the lord,” while their critics within the Republican party ask “what message is being sent to other minority communities?”

“Qatar … has no grievance with Washington and little sympathy for Tehran but has come in different ways to depend on both. … [M]easures … designed to force Doha to break its links with Tehran … have had the opposite effect” …

… and “Iranian sanctions complicate matters for New Delhi and Tokyo in their relationship with Washington, as neither shares the intense US dislike for Tehran” …

… and “Iraq’s president said on Sunday talks with the United States were continuing and his country’s special conditions regarding sanctions on Iran should be taken into consideration” …

… while three small Caucasus countries that buy no Iranian crude oil “have to various extents relied on Iran for natural gas, and stand to be affected – if only by uncertainty until the exact scope of the sanctions becomes clearer”  …

… and the Trump administration exempts an important Iranian port being developed by India in order to prevent China from benefiting:

“Indonesian Ulama Council’s followers are obeying” its nonbinding opinion that “vaccines use a gelatine as a stabilising agent which is based on ‘illicit’ substances derived from pigs” even though “Jewish and Muslim organisations around the world have ruled this not to be a problem”:

Ms. Helal says the “idea of ‘the poor Muslim woman’, the poor oppressed woman who has used sport to overcome that” is “an insincere and inauthentic way of engaging with Muslim women”:

Israel’s lethal raid may sabotage its indirect understandings with Hamas “backed by Qatar and Egypt, to allow cash and fuel into Gaza … [as] part of a broader effort to alleviate deteriorating conditions in the impoverished territory after 11 years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade”:

News and Analysis (11/9/18)

Friday, November 9th, 2018

“A Jordanian source, with an inside knowledge of his country’s diplomatic affairs, told MEE that the Saudi decision is part of a bilateral agreement with Israel to put an end to the ‘Palestinian identity and the right of return for refugees”:

Despite expressions of human rights concerns over life imprisonment for leading an opposition party that sought “a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister”, but was accused of “spying on behalf of rival gulf state Qatar,” the U.S. “will not seek to impose sanctions over the matter”:

The city of Troy “has approximately 53 places of worship within its 33.6-square-mile border but not one for Muslims…. Adam Community Center sued five months after the Troy Zoning Board of Appeals indicated there was no acceptable place in the city left for the group to build a mosque”:

The assailant was “charged with bias intimidation, simple assault and terroristic threats”:

Liz Bucar‘s study of Muslim fashion taught her that “modesty does not look the same everywhere, … Muslim women don’t need saving [, and] … Muslims contribute to mainstream society”:

Israel attempted to excuse the murder with vague claims that two men were trying to “sabotage” the fence:

The head of the Islamic-Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and Holy Sites wants the holders of the  keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to give them to another member of the family after a house owned by the current holder mysteriously ended up in the hands of Zionist extremists:

The city of DeSoto honored the late imam who was a member of the Minaret of Freedom Institute Advisory Board and “the first Muslim to recite the invocation on the floor of the U.S. Senate”: