Archive for January, 2022

Religion and Populism

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

[On January 6, 2022, the Council on Foreign Relations held an on-the-record discussion of the relationship between religion and populism, and how this relationship is affecting the politics of Europe and the United States, featuring Jocelyne Cesari, chair of religion and politics at the University of Birmingham, and Tobias Cremer, junior research fellow in religion and the frontier challenges at Pembroke College, Oxford. This is my summary of some highlights of that program.]

Jocelyn Cesari sought to make a distinction between the American and European populist movements based on the fact that the European is Christian in identity only and, unlike the American movement, makes no attempt to impose Christian morality through the state. Tobias Cremer recognized that the fundamentalist Evangelicals are not the only members of the American populist movement.

Cesari argued that America was founded as an inclusivist, rather than exclusivist, Christian country.  I pointed out in the chat that, according to the 1797 treaty of Tripoli, ratified by a Senate that included many of the founding fathers, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Cesari noted that America is the only country that truly separates religion from state, notwithstanding the religious dimensions of its founding. She offered Martin Luther King as an example of a Christian motivated inclusivism. In America, the Christian populists want laws against abortion, while in Europe they want laws against hijab. In Europe populists see Islam as a direct threat to freedom of women. In America people with a high degree of religiosity do not advocate exclusivity.

Cremer argued that white Christian nationalism is not a matter of religious practice, rather, there is an anti-correlation between church attendance and populism. There are people who say they became Evangelicals because of Donald Trump, but they do not attend church.

A Muslim participant mentioned Abu Kalam Azad along with Martin Luther King and Ghandi in the context of  religious political actors whose use of religious texts had an influence on their movements. He recommended Richard Bulliet’s The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization. Cesari argued that the divide in America is not only religious but even more an economic and especially a class divide.

In response to a question about the populist appropriation of Christian and pagan symbols, Cremer noted that some see Christianity as a Jewish sect rather than a white European religion and accordingly adopt pagan European symbols. I noted that the Nazis appropriated the swastika. A member of the World Parliament of Religions responded, “The swastika is an ancient sacred and very auspicious symbol of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and those communities are now seeking to correct misperceptions based on 20th century history and to reclaim the symbol.” I suggested that perhaps the anti-correlation between religiosity and populism observed Christians in the West may also apply to Hindus in India.

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

New and Analysis 1/5/22

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Kazakh ambitions to replace Russian with their own language as the official language provokes troubling rhetoric:

“While the Houthis have hit Saudi Arabia several times recently, it is a small fraction of cross-border strikes, with the Saudis carrying out dramatically more airstrikes against sites in Yemen”:

A “Columbia University graduate student who was targeted by the fake auction websites, wrote on Twitter that she no longer felt safe speaking out about the treatment of Muslim women in India”:

Held without charge or trial, “500 so-called administrative detainees began new year by refusing to show up for their court sessions”:

The rally in Iran’s currency may be due to “the increased likelihood of Iraq and South Korea releasing Iran’s frozen assets, as well as a breakthrough in Vienna talks”:

The Pakistani PM blames “corruption and rising sex crimes” for the ails of the Muslim world, but the “real issue, as Turkish scholar Mustafa Akyol has described it, is the ‘reopening of Muslim minds’. It’s about turning to reason, freedom, tolerance and enlightenment”:

“It’s unclear whether Iran, which did not attend or make submissions to the court, will make the payments. Tehran has previously offered the families of those killed $150,000 per victim”:

A Palestinian journalists observed that “Watson’s ‘simple statement’ had left ‘Zionists everywhere … in a frenzy'”:

“Although the U.S.-led international coalition announced the end of its “combat mission” in Iraq in December, some 2,500 U.S. and 1,000 coalition troops remain in the country to advise and train Iraqi security forces”:

News and Analysis 1/3/22

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

As Iran demands U.N. condemnation of the U.S. and a trial for Donald Trump for extra-territorial assassination …

… “[M]embers of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces were chanting against the US and the presence of US troops in Iraq. They are blaming the [Iraqi] government for what they consider is collaborating with US forces”:

The reinstated PM was “to lead a cabinet of technocrats until elections were held. But it was unclear how much power the new civilian government would have, and protests against the military resumed, which were often violently suppressed”:

The HTS claims that shifting from war to governance requires moderating its position, but skeptics thik it is all for show:

France’s assumption of the EU presidency is cause for concern as attacks on Muslims are no longer the monopoly of the far right. Macron’s hardline interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, accused Le Pen, during a recent television debate, of going ‘soft’ on Islam”:

Evidence mounts that the Anti-terrorist Squad’s claims of forced conversion is faked:

Although the new website has been shut down, victims have little hope of justice as there have been no arrest six months after the previous site was probed:

Iran is also optimistic, provided sanctions are lifted:

In Memorium: Mahmoud Ayoub, Robert Crane, and Safei El-Deen Hameed

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

Among the remarkable Muslims who passed away in 2021 were three who, in different ways, supported the Minaret of Freedom Institute.

Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, one of the most outstanding scholars of his time, was knowledgeable in both Islamic jurisprudence and in Sufism.  We were honored to work with him on a number of occasions and to benefit not only from his knowledge and insights but from his profound love. His work advanced both inter-faith and intra-faith cooperation. His ideas are often cited on our website, including his insistence that no matter how much he disagreed with the words or actions of anyone who called himself a Muslim, he would never deny the he is Muslim, but only say he is wrong or mistaken.

Dr. Robert Farooq Crane was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the work of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. An old-fashioned paleoconservative who converted to Islam while he was a diplomat in the Muslim world, he despised seeing traditional institution being hijacked for imperialistic purposes or to justify oppression. He saw in Islam’s commitment to social justice, as he saw in his own Cherokee heritage, an expression of commitment to “every person’s human right to ownership of the means of production,” which he called “the just third way.” His motto was “own or be owned.”

Dr. Safei El-Deen Hameed was most intimately connected with the Minaret of Freedom Institute, having served on our Board of Directors from 2016 until his death. He was especially interested in the relationship of Islam and science. His concerns for the difficulties of civil society in his native Egypt helped him to appreciate how our work on Islam’s encouragement of rationality and inductive science was related to our concerns over human rights abuses against and within the Muslim community. His passing is a personal loss for us.

May Allah forgive them all and grant them paradise and comfort their family and loved ones.

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