Foundation stone laid for Hajj House in Bhopal

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 03 May 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: The long cherished dreams of Muslims of having a Hajj House at Bhopal was fulfilled when its foundation stone laying ceremony was performed here at Singarcholi near the city’s airport with much religious fervour. Muslims from all over the state in large numbers converged to witness the ceremony.

Maulana Peer Saeed Miyan Mujaddidi, Rector of Bhopal-based Islamic seminary Darul-Uloom at Taj-ul-Masajid, unveiled the curtain of the plaque and offered “Dua” in the presence of rightist Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), ruled Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to mark the occasion. Minorities Minister Ajay Vishnoi, BJP state president Govind Singh Tomar, state Hajj Committee chairman Dr. Sanawwar Patel, Bhopal Shahar Qazi Maulana Syed Mushtaque Ali Nadvi including Qazis from towns all over the state graced the opening ceremony.

On the occasion, people with excellent service to community were conferred state-level awards. Mrs. Firoza Khan received Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan Award, Azizuddin got Abdul Hameed Khan Memorial Award while Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial Award was conferred on Shaikh Riyazuddin Patel. Chouhan presented shawl, memento and a cheque of Rs.1 lakh to each one of the awardees.

A cheque worth Rs.1 lakh was presented to Messrs Mehboob & Associates, whose design of the proposed Hajj House was adjudged the best. Er. Mahboob-ul-Hasan received the cheque.
Speaking on the occasion Chief Minister Chouhan directed to complete construction of Hajj House at the earliest. He said that work for another Hajj House would start soon at Indore also. He assured that Hajj flights will be operated from both Bhopal and Indore airports to dispel the apprehension from the minds of the people of Indore that they may be left out in matters of Hajj embarkation point.

Chouhan said that the Madhya Pradesh Government is committed to strengthening minorities and ensuring their progress through education, skill development and maximum job opportunities.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan touches heart of Muslims

The hallmark of Chouhan’s speech was that he highlighted and referred to Islamic principles and beliefs which touched the hearts of the assemblage which mostly comprised of Muslims. He stated that interest is forbidden and there is ban on consumption of liquor in Islam and then correlated some of his policy decisions to these Islamic provisions. He pointed out that his government has decided to extend interest-free loan to farmers and not to allow new liquor shops and factories to be opened in the state.

He gave the credit of Hajj House to come up in Bhopal to Almighty’s decision and he himself was just a tool and via media to implement it. “Zameen Par Aik Patta Bhi Nahin Hilta Ooperwale Ke Ishare Ke Beghair. Main To Aik Sevak HooN Jisse Ooperwala Kaam Leraha Hai. Aaj chief minister Hoon Kal Chala Jaaonga”, he remarked.

Greeting Qazis and guests from all over the state, Chouhan said that brotherhood, equality and mutual affection are the foundations of life. Religion teaches to live for and serve humanity. He said that service to poor is the noblest deed. For this, steps like supply of wheat at the rate of Re. 1 and rice at Rs.2 per kg and electricity supply to the poor and interest-free loans to farmers have been initiated.

Minorities Welfare Minister Ajay Vishnoi said that even the Union Government has lauded Madhya Pradesh government for implementation of programmes for minorities’ development. Efforts like training to Hajj pilgrims, scholarships to students, imparting vocational training and extending financial help for higher education have proved effective. They have strengthened minority community. The government has also taken initiative to honour people working in the interest of the community.

Meanwhile, Arif Masood, a prominent Congress leader of the city, after the Hajj House foundation stone laying ceremony in another function felicitated Chief Minister Chouhan for his government’s gesture towards Muslims. He honoured Chouhan by putting a pink “Pagri” (traditional head-gear) on his head and offered sweets in his mouth.

It may be recalled here that Arif Masood and his band of followers had been agitating for Hajj House in Bhopal for last many years and even gave call to court arrest for the cause.

Ex-Union Minister Arif Beg, local MLAs Vishwas Sarang, Jitendra Daga and Dhurvnarayan Singh, office-bearers of Minorities Welfare Commission, Madarsa Board and Hajj Committee, Qazis and Maulvis from various cities and large number of minority community people were present on the occasion.

Madhya Pradesh Hajj Committee chairman Dr. Sanawwar Patel proposed vote of thanks and Badar Wasti compered the programme with aplomb.

Meanwhile, it may be stated here that the Madhya Pradesh Government has sanctioned Rs. 6 crore 11 lakh 25,000 for construction of the Hajj House. Of this, Rs.1 crore has been paid as grant to State Hajj Committee.

For Bhopal Hajj House, 2.01 acre land has been allotted at village Singarcholi. The Hajj House will be constructed in 45,000 square feet area. It will have four storeys. It will house about 1500 pilgrims and will have facilities of training etc. Office of the State Hajj Committee will also be set up on its premises. The construction under the supervision of Capital Project will be completed by the end of year 2014.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Seminar on Meaning of Fascism and How It descended in India and Gujarat

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: What is the meaning of Fascism and how it has descended in India and Gujarat was elaborately discussed in a full day seminar organised by Anhad NGO in Ahmedabad. “If we don’t speak now, the country may soon get into the hands of Fascist forces,” said Shabnam Hashmi, founding trustee of Act Now for Harmony And Democracy (Anhad) on the eve of completion of ten years of Anhad.

“Such initiatives are the need of the hour; more individuals and organisations should work to spreading the message of secularism and it could surely bring some change in the state” added Hashmi.

Around 500 people from across the state attended the meet, which deliberated on Fascism in the context of Gujarat and steps to counter Fascist forces in the state. Shah told the audience that the increasing popularity of development model of Gujarat presented to the nation was due to economic and political formations in the state, which gives rise to fascism.

Referring to the functioning of Fascism, director of Insaf, Anil Chaudhary, spoke about the ganging up of big corporate houses with politics. Gautam Thaker said under Modi dictat the draconian bills were passed in the Assembly and the election result was due to the urban populace yet there was no publicity of the rural large chunk of votes which were not in his favour.

Mallika Sarabhai said she was dejected to witness incidents when people tend to caste votes without any sincerity and commitment and do not help those who are working hard and tirelessly for them, which means that they deserve such fascist forces, why blame anybody then?

She asked.Neha Shah said idea to promote Gujarat by its Chief Minister is promotion of woman as a community, and voters were woed on the basis of false marketed ideas and castism. Mehl Makwana insisted that the picture was grim but struggle to expose such forces must be kept on. Raju Solanki in his forceful representation involved the audience when he said it was time when all marginalized sections of Gujarat unite and challenge the system of Modi. In his leadership corruption was on a large scale and in large quantities of not only money but of values and fabric of Indian constitutional rights.

Fr Cedric Prakash said the systematic Hindutva marketing and promotion is being done of education system in Modi regime. ‘”While Modi says he is not the leader of Hindus alone his own associate VHP leader Pravin Togadia had announced to make Gujarat a Hindu Rashtra by 2015,” Fr.Prakash  added.

Zakia Soman said it was the need of the hour to unite, think over and protest against Modi and stall his march to the ambitious PM post. She said both Congress and BJP are equally promoting and encouraging fascism in their style it was time that people realized this silent turmoil or it would be too late for Gujarat.

Anhad trustee Manan Trivedi said dna that business bodies were very happy in the state because there was no voice of the marginalised and the downtrodden. He said that the group wanted to make people aware of the real situation in Gujarat, which in the long run will violate the rights of tribals, dalits and all other marginalised communities.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

India is the only country where Muslims exert influence without fear: Tarek Fatah

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Aarto Tikoo Singh

Tarek Fatah is a Canadian writer and advocate of a progressive and liberal Muslim identity. Speaking with Aarti Tikoo Singh, Fatah discussed his emphasis on Muslimsfighting tyranny, why left-wing groups are often wrong in assessing Islamic movements — and how Indian Muslims are uniquely placed to challenge repression:

You're visiting India for the first time — what are your impressions?

I'm relieved all my impressions turned out to be realistic — India is the only country offering a future in terms of what the nation state would be and how to accommodate languages, races and religions with all the difficulties that go with that. As a Muslim, i found it fascinating that this is the only place in the world where Muslims exert influence without fear. Muslims are better equipped in India than in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

You lead a secular reformist movement for Muslims — did you find support from Indian liberals?

I think they're puzzled. I felt the vast majority of Indian Muslims are open to the idea of a separation of religion and state. They've rejected Islamic states, voting to stay here — however, there is no leadership in the Muslim community that says, 'Not in my name'. I talked to prominent Muslims who said, "You're not going to make me deal with issues as a Muslim. I am an Indian. " But i feel they are abdicating the responsibi-lity they have, as the only Muslims with the freedom to stand up against those who wish to take this freedom away.

Actually, liberals across the world have abdicated this responsibility, indulging in what i call left-wing Orientalism. Islamo-fascism is not the result of economic deprivation. It is an ideological war, based on a death cult — you can't use conventional socio-political wisdom to address this.
Unfortunately, the liberal Left, including socialist parties in America and India, doesn't admit they don't have it right. But they're making an error in thinking Islamo-fascism is linked with economic deprivation. Such thinkers should go on a sabbatical to Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Aligarh — they'd be in for the shock of their lives.

But serious questions remain in India about Muslims being discriminated against — isn't that of concern?

I don't deny that — but i would rather live with discrimination, where i have the right to speak out, than live somewhere women and others are targeted in the name of Islam. Of course there's oppression in India too against women but nobody says it's an act of piety — it's 'dadagiri', not piety. It can be corrected with better enforcement of laws offering equality and protection. In the Islamic world, the law itself says women are inferior to men.

Indian Muslims have a good thing going — but if you're not ensuring, for instance, that every girl is educated, you're making sure things don't become as good as they could be. It is the responsibility of liberal Muslims to discuss issues and say this or that is not acceptable. If Muslim women cannot go to a mosque and sit in the front row, it is not a Hindu problem. If Muslim men don't treat female relations with equal dignity, why are they complaining that others aren't doing so?

The onus is on us. You can't fight fascism batting on the back foot. You've got to hit it out of the park.

I put harsher responsibility on Indian Muslims because they are free, living in a democratic society. If they want to know what it's like to live under Islamic rule, they can see what`s happening in Pakistan.

Q: You were scheduled to talk at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, but the event was canceled for some reason. What happened?

I blame the handful of people who exerted pressure but these people don't realize that by stifling my opinion, they made it go viral in an era of Twitter and Facebook. So I am not angry; I am just saddened by the religious Right of the Muslim community.

This is not a reflection on the Indian Muslims. Most Muslims I have met here or talked to, whether it is Irfan Habib or Javed Akhtar, were appalled. But what happened at Jamia Milia is contemporary reaction even in the US, Britain, France where very few people are willing to challenge the Islamist discourse for fear of being dubbed as anti-Islam or Islamophobic.

Q: Does India really have an Islamo-fascism problem? Isn't the problem in India primarily about Muslims being maimed in communal riots, persecuted for being Muslims and discriminated against by Hindus?

First of all, India does have an Islamo-fascism problem. Otherwise why would the Jamia event get canceled despite the fact that it is a university led by a very leading intellectual in the Indian Muslim community? SIMI is not Made-In-Japan institution; it is indigenous to India. The Dukhtaran-e-Millat Kashmir fascists, the acid-throwing anarchists are indigenous to India. These are Muslim extremists. The Owaisi brothers have not been imported from Singapore; they are indigenous to Hyderabad.

Indian Muslims have the Islamo-fascists, feeding on the culture of victimhood, who do not want it to be solved. If the discrimination that they perceive ends, then the Islamo-fascists have no fodder to feed on. So they want to make it worse for the Muslims by telling them not to integrate. I would ask a question- why would Muslim parents not name their children after indigenous Indian names? Why do they have to constantly borrow from the Arabs or the Persians?

Q: India is struggling with various separatist violent movements in Kashmir, Northeast, Maoist bastions and the rise of Right wing Hindutava fascism. Aren't they as worrisome as Islamo-fascism?

These movements within India can't be compared to Islamo-fascism. They are their own problems that are being addressed wrongly. The solution to these problems lies through democracy and not by taking up arms in a democratic state. If you are under a dictatorial regime, then I would support the taking up of arms. I support the Baloch guerillas for taking up arms in a country that is run by a military. But this is a democracy. You have to be patient in a democracy. Muslims adhering to Islamo-fascism and having the Left support it is a different issue.

Q: Is your fight against Islamo-fascism relevant to India where secularism is understood and practiced very differently from what it is in the West? The Indian law does not permit criticism that offends religious sentiment.

The very notion of Western law and all our civilization is based on European reaffirmation and anyone who suggests India's democracy is its own development is not telling the truth. The concept of a secret vote has stemmed from the French and American revolutions and the British coming to this part of the country, otherwise you would have, at best, the panchayat system. If the constitution does not say that you can't offend, then the constitution should say that you have the right to offend. You don't have the right to cause harm to a third person, but you should have the absolute right to have an opinion on any dogma, religious belief, on anything and express it.

Many of the founding fathers or mothers of India were atheists. They mocked every religion. You can't be a member of the Communist Party and say, well, I can't offend religion. Your existence is an offense to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Anyone who has been a member of the Communist Party and is an atheist is de facto saying 'I don't believe in this nonsense'. So, already you have determined that it is ok to offend. Otherwise the Communist Party of India would be banned. They have a 75-year-old history in this country. They are part and parcel of the independence movement of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal. So if you take away the right to offend another religion, then let us put all the communists behind bars.

I think India has a bright future, because no civilization has moved backwards. It is a scientific fact and this is based on history that the future is of societies where culture and custom play a secondary role to parliaments and legislatures. It ought not to be the other way. That is the nature of the ideal nation-state. We pass laws knowing that laws would be changed by future generations and thus improved upon, but we don't have religious dogma that can be changed by a future generation. Whether it is the Old Testament or the Quran or the Gita, there is no version 2.1 coming out.

We have a choice- we protect our traditions because it is offensive to challenge them, and live as tribals following hierarchical or patriarchal societies, where the rights of women or minorities are a matter of tradition, or we can build towards the society where traditions do not constrain us from building the ideal society, where men and women are equal, Black and White is equal and Hindu and Muslim is equal. But if you cannot push the notion that you cannot criticize a religion or its followers, then there is no democracy, then there is no free speech. I, as a Muslim, should today have rights that would have saved Mansur al- Hallaj from a torturous death in the tenth century. His body was ripped apart and his limbs were amputated because he said, 'Ana al-Haqq' (I am the light). He was the first Muslim atheist to have died when the Caliph begged him, 'come on, you know, I am an atheist, you know that, let us make a compromise'. He said, 'no, I would rather die than lie'. So people who are nonbelievers in any faith have as much a right to state their case.

Q: Do you share the same optimism for India's neighbors, that is Bangladesh and Pakistan where you were born and raised?

Pakistan will soon disintegrate. Pakistan is not a country. It is an idea. If you want to know what Pakistan is, then you go to Dhaka, not to Islamabad. None of the territories that comprise Pakistan today, had anything to do with Pakistan. The NWFP was governed by the Congress party. In Punjab, the Muslim League didn't win power. In Sindh they didn't get power, Balochistan was an independent state that Pakistan occupied with the military invasion, in Kashmir which Pakistan claims, Sheikh Abdullah had nothing to do with the type of thuggery thatMohammad Ali Jinnah was doing. And you go everywhere along the route, the only people that wanted Pakistan were the UPites, Biharis, north Indian Hindi belt Muslims who migrated to Karachi. And then they built Pakistan into a society that ruled us like colonial rulers. They destroyed and devastated the languages and cultures indigenous to the people of Pakistan and imposed Urdu on them and then made the entire Punjab Muslim community deny its own language by banning it from official institutions. So today, we have the result that in the Punjab assembly, you are not allowed to speak in Punjabi.

It is a dismal case of pan-Islamism, that has been an experiment which failed in 1971. It failed much earlier in fact, because people after people, regime after regime invoked pan-Islamism to kill Muslims. So forget about Pakistan. At some stage, it will wither away. At some stage, Balochistan has to secede. It is the fifth civil war they are fighting against the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military is an industrial mafia that controls everything from cereals to trucks to missiles to magazines to banks. It is the most vivid example of what President Eisenhower talked about the military-industrial complex.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, is an incredibly exciting place to be because that is where the Muslim vs the Islamist fight is taking place. You've got Islamists on one hand demanding the death penalty against anyone who is an atheist, and on the other bloggers who are less organized, have a bigger popular base but are naively saying that they are nonpolitical. Reminds me of Mao Tse Tung's ' a single spark can launch a prairie fire.' The bloggers have done that, so this fight is going there and my feeling is that even if they lose, the Shahbhag movement will in the end, succeed. As with other Muslim countries though, it is possible that any mediocrity on the part of leadership may have serious consequences. It is reflected in Syria and Egypt where despite the revolutions, things have gone worse.

Q: You are working on your third book, 'Jinnah's Orphans'. Can you please explain the title?

The current tragedy of the Indian subcontinent is a direct result of Mohd. Ali Jinnah's absurd philosophy of the Two Nation Theory and his refusal to compromise with Gandhi or Nehru and his complete adherence to the dictates of the Anglo-American enterprise which wanted Pakistan created because they saw that in a united India, they won't be able to get air force bases in the Himalayas where they were peeping right over the mountain tips to the Red Army which had entered Iran and set up the Kurdish republic and the Azheri republic. They also had King Zahir Shah who was a supporter of the Soviets.

And you have to understand that the Baloch, who were separate, were also led by Mir Bizenjowho was a member of the Communist Party of India, Khair Bhaksh Marri who was also an Oxford Communist, and vast cadres of Left wing activists that drove the fear into the heart of Americans. So Pakistan was created primarily as a consequence by utilizing Islam to fight communism on the backs of ordinary Indian Muslims. No other Muslim people have been used like fodder like the northern Indian Muslim or the Pakistani Muslim, even the Bangladeshi Muslim. Hence Jinnah's Orphans!

I am going to Dhaka and look at one million stateless people, the Biharis, who do not wish to be Bangladeshi, do not wish to be Indian, do not wish to be Pakistani and none of these countries want them. They are the quintessential orphans- the most vivid example of the tragedy that nobody wants to even resolve. But they are not the only ones. The three million dead Bangladeshis are also the orphans. Bangladeshis, the Khalistan movement, Pakistan's troubles, Balochistan's civil war, the bleeding issue of Kashmir since 1965, is a direct result of Jinnah's Two Nation Theory. Every victim of the Kashmir violence, whether it is the Kashmiri Pandits or the Kashmiri Muslims, the Chinese taking over Baltistan, the Pakistan Army destroying all Kashmiri culture and imposing Urdu and Punjabi over there- All these tragedies, I refer to as Jinnah's Orphans. The reason I am writing is that I haven't seen any non-fiction literature that has a composite view of what has happened as a result of Jinnah's Two Nation Theory.

Q: Why do you blame only Jinnah?

Nehru and Gandhi are guilty of giving in to Jinnah. Jinnah is the instrument. With Gandhi and Nehru, my beef is that they betrayed Badshah Khan. They left him to the dogs. Badshah Khan delivered the North Western Frontier Province to the Congress. Then Sardar Patel and Nehru in their wisdom decided that the Pashtun Indians were not worthy of being looked after and they suffered. And the Bengalis suffered because of that decision. So the blame is there on both Nehru and Gandhi. And on Gandhi to a bigger degree. Gandhi is the one who allowed Rs. 55 crore to be given to the government of Pakistan. The next day, Pakistan triggered the invasion of Kashmir. So many Kashmiris have died as a result of that. If Jinnah had not sent those tribals and the regular Pakistan Army into it, do you think we would have this tragedy? Kashmir would have been Indian or independent or a princely state where the Kashmiris would have decided what they wanted. Jinnah didn't want that and Kashmiris suffered. It is surprising that Kashmiris don't hold him responsible for their pain.

Q: Perhaps, because India has caused Kashmiri Muslims graver political injustice. No?

India has made catastrophic errors of judgment in Kashmir, right from the time when the United Nations Security Council resolutions demanded that Pakistan should withdraw all its Army and irregulars from all territories of Jammu and Kashmir, which is what India wanted. Yet that resolution subsequently started getting weaker after repeated vetoes by the USSR. If you notice the Pakistan movement, Kashmir was not a place where people were saying 'leke rahenge Pakistan, haath mein lota, muuh mein paan'. There were no pro-Pakistan slogans there. Frontier and Kashmir were not pro-Pakistan. They were led by Muslims who were more Muslim than Jinnah could ever be in a hundred lifetimes. They were pious people, Indian nationalists, dedicated to their supporters and both were betrayed by India. So India does not get scot-free. India's hands are bloody as well. But where as India's hands are bloody because of mistakes and errors of judgment, Pakistan's glee in making India bleed is a thought of evil. It is out of hatred.

Q: Does India-Pakistan relationship have a future?

If India-Pakistan relationship has a future, then where is the need of Pakistan? We already had a relationship. We were living in the same cities next-door to each other, especially in Punjab and Kashmir, where people didn't make friends based on religion. There were no segregated ghettos in Lahore which said Muslim quarter or a Hindu quarter. Kishen Nagar or the old city Lahore, the homes were next to each other. So if that is the point, then Pakistan ought to admit that they made a mistake. The day they say they made a mistake, the problem is resolved.
India does not want to invade Pakistan, nobody wishes to invade anyone. It is Pakistanis who have the notion that we have the first strike capability and we can drop a bomb and we are not going to sign no first use. Why? It is Pakistan that says that Afghanistan should be subjugated to our colonial rule rather than let the Kabul have its own foreign policy and independent relations with New Delhi. By all accounts, Pakistan's ruling establishment, the civilian-military establishment is a rogue element that is playing the most vicious dangerous game after the cold war and putting the entire subcontinent at the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. Why can't Pakistan say 'no first use policy'?

If Pakistan becomes a loose confederation of its federating units where the interests of the federating units, not the interests of its military-industrial complex, is legitimate, , where the native languages are allowed, and cultures and customs are allowed to flourish, rather than be dictated by Gulf-Arab states as to what is right and what is wrong, then, of course India and Pakistan can live as states and the past can be forgotten. We will be next-door neighbors like anyone else.

Q: Are you a self-hating Muslim?

No, but if there is something wrong that the Muslims do, why would I be constrained in telling them? Do you think the track record of Muslim leadership is anything to be proud of? Should I be proud of what happened at Jamia? Should I be proud of what's happening with the Syrians? Should I be proud of the Saudis? Tell me who to be proud of? What I am saying is that there is a scarcity of dignified, secular, liberal Muslims who are willing to be honest. If my honesty leads me to be accused of being an Uncle Tom or a self-hating Muslim, I am quite comfortable with that.

My religion commands me to speak the truth and respect that truth even if it hurts you or your family and Quran is specific on that. If that is my fate, what would be my interest? My interest is the betterment of the Muslim people. I like to see them as philosophers, car drivers, the sculptors, and the dancers and the musicians, who the Muslims were during the era of rationalist movement in Baghdad.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

A voice of awakening from an Israeli victim

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

Dr Elhanan should not be alone in seeking Arab-Israeli peace; it is for all of us in the region to reject the culture of hate and violence and promote understanding

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

The Middle East has been a quagmire of simmering tensions for several decades. It has the potential to be explosive. At the root of this equation is, by and large, the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Generations have grown in the region surrounded by events relating to this perpetuating aggression that may one day explode into open hostility. There are players on both sides that are trying to find common ground and build a path to harmony. And there are others who are determined to win at any cost.

Dr Nurit Peled Elhanan, an Israeli activist and a mother whose 13-year-old daughter was killed by a suicide bomber in 1997, is one of those who have been working incessantly towards the cause of peace. She has also been highly critical of her government’s policies regarding the annexation of land and property belonging to Palestinians and their treatment at the hands of Israeli forces.

In a speech delivered on International Women’s Day in Strasbourg in 2009, she appealed for the world’s attention to the suffering of women, including Palestinians. She said: “I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women.

“And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R’aban and her husband Kamal, from Beit Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family’s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

“It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe…I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell.

“This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished, who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

“I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world… But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them.

“And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies.”

At a rally in Tel Aviv in early 2010, Dr Elhanan wondered how Israeli preschoolers would respond to the question, “What did you learn at school this year, dear little boy of mine?”
In an emotional speech, she answered: “An enlightened and critical child might have answered: I learned that the sun is still shining, and the almond tree is blooming, and the butcher butchers, and there is nobody to judge him.

“And the child who is less used to theorising might rejoice and say: I learned how to cheat Americans, deceive Palestinians, to kill Arabs, to expel families from their homes, and to curse whoever tells me that I am a nasty brat when I have been a nasty brat.

“And the new immigrant boy, who terribly longs to integrate and belong, might say: I learned whom to hate, I learned who needs to be killed and who should be spat upon, and I am ever ready for the task, whenever you call upon me.

“The religious-Zionist child, who attends the fenced and well-guarded kindergarten in the settlement [colony], might say: I learned to be a good Zionist, to love the Land, to die and kill for its sake, to expel from it the invaders, to kill their children, to destroy their homes, and never to forget that in each and every generation the persecutors arise to annihilate us and that all gentiles are the same and that they are all anti-Semites who must be annihilated.

“In the past year our children have learned that to kill a non-Jew, of whatever age, is a great commandment. This they learned not only from the rabbis, but also from the soldiers who ceaselessly boast of what they have done. This was expressed well by Damian Kirilik, when the police arrested him and charged him with murdering the entire Oshrenko Family. Quite coolly he asked the police investigators: why are you making such a fuss over the killing of children?”

She concluded with an appeal, “Together with our peace-seeking friends beyond the Wall, beyond the barbed wires, we might become a majority. Only the refusal to surrender to walls and checkpoints can open the gates of our ghetto so that we could pull down the walls of their ghetto. To see at last that there is an outside world, that there is a culture and there are people whom it is worth living to meet, to know and make friends with, to learn from them about this place where we live as resident aliens and remember that this place can be a place of surpassing beauty”

Dr Elhanan is not alone in her fight to raise awareness among Israelis of the ground realities. There are other activists on both sides, victims in a long drawn arena of hostility who are reaching for common grounds between them.

It is for all of us in the region to reject the culture of hate and violence and promote a culture of understanding between neighbours. Peace can prevail. It can only happen if each one of us is individually prepared to do so.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.You can follow him at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

What Does Muslim-Western Relations Mean?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Michael Young

It is a fact that the notion of a clash of civilisations, first popularised by the American academic Samuel Huntington, is more relevant than ever in the minds of many people. Especially when it concerns Muslim-Western relations, there is a view that Muslim and Western values are incompatible.

And yet Huntington’s argument that after the Cold War conflict would be defined not by ideology or economics, but by cultural differences, was indeed prophetic since culture has become the principle basis for differentiation, even if culture itself is often viewed in far too static a way.

The reaction to Huntington’s conclusion was generally one of unease. If what he said was true, then the future of the world could be very bleak indeed. Cultural differences would be regarded as sinister rather than as foundations of invigorating diversity. For many, Huntington seemed to be looking at the glass half empty, when the very concept of global interaction, and globalisation in general, imposed a far more heartening reading of the situation.

Both sides had a point. Huntington was prescient for realising that the causes of conflict would shift away from ideological antagonism (though the argument with respect to economics was less persuasive), even if they remained firmly in the realm of ideas. However it is also true that, in his rendering, global relations seemed to reflect an apocalyptic vision – that of perennial discord and enmity.

There is nothing wrong with discussing the disparities between Western and Muslim values, but to lend to the discussion unchangeable qualities on both sides is to miss the adaptable nature of culture and the ability of humans to modify cultural reactions in changing environments.

If one wants to question Huntington’s paradigm, it is in the sphere of perceptions where that has to be done. For many people in the West, the Arab uprisings since 2011 have been a case in point. These people have come to believe that what began as a yearning for democracy and freedom has ended up favouring Islamist groups (groups that believe there is a role for Islam in politics) that are neither particularly democratic nor tolerant of freedom, and who have usually sought restrictive legislation against women, a substantial portion of their populations.

But the reality lies in the nuances. For example, in Egypt and Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennadha parties have taken over major state institutions. While they have allowed behaviour unheard of under the old regimes, they have also become increasingly contested as they have retained powers allowing them to restrict certain freedoms, such as freedom of expression, while riding roughshod over representative bodies.

Acknowledging the complex undercurrents of the Arab revolts is necessary in order to grasp what is going on. The notion that there is something irreconcilable between the aspirations of Arab societies and those of western societies is simplistic, and often wrong, just as it is equally naïve to expect that Arab societies in ebullition will wholeheartedly embrace Western values, such as secularism, the primacy of the individual at the expense of the group, and so on.
To demand such an embrace, no less than declaring it impossible, is to believe that culture talks in absolutes.

In the last 12 years since the 9/11 attacks, familiarity has led to a better Western understanding of the complexities in the Muslim world, while far-reaching changes in the Muslim world have undermined a black and white view of the region in the West. When Syrians revolted two years ago, they had no hesitation in asking for Western help, just as the overthrow of pro-Western autocrats was regarded favourably in the United States and Europe.

A Syrian or Egyptian still regards freedom much as a Frenchman or an American does, even if the preferred social contract each will favour to protect those freedoms differs. Perhaps some will want more secularism, others more religion. But if the preferred social contract ends up undermining those same freedoms, then the chances are that new rebellions will occur at some stage.

Huntington was correct in looking toward culture as the boundary between Western and Eastern societies. But boundaries are ever-changing and values cross over between cultures by osmosis. To assume cultures are autarkic and unchanging is as erroneous as to assume that cultural distinctions are invariably resolvable. The truth about culture lies in the middle; values are transposable, which is why identity is most enthralling when they are tethered the least.

[Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon.]

(Courtesy: Eurasia Review)

Poll: U.S. Muslims more moderate than Muslims worldwide

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Omar Sacirbey

Muslims in America are much less inclined to support suicide bombing than other Muslims abroad, and are more likely to believe that people of other faiths can attain eternal life in heaven, according to a new report released Tuesday (April 30) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“The World’s Muslims” report looks at Muslim views across seven categories: Islamic law; religion and politics; morality; women; relations among Muslims; interfaith relations; and religion, science, and pop culture. There is also a special section on U.S. Muslims.

Of the countries surveyed, only a majority of Muslims in America — 56 percent — believe people of other faiths can go to heaven; by contrast, that figure among U.S. Christians is about 64 percent. U.S. Muslims are also less likely than Muslims abroad to believe in evolution, sharing views that are closer to those of U.S. Christians.

On suicide bombing, 81 percent of U.S. Muslims said it was never justified, 7 percent said it was justified to “defend Islam,” and 1 percent said it was “sometimes justified.”

Globally, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing, although significant minorities in several countries say such acts are at least sometimes justified, including 26 percent of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29 percent in Egypt, and 39 percent in Afghanistan.

At least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they worry about religious extremists in their own country, including two-thirds or more of Muslims in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and Indonesia.
The percentage of Muslims who say they want Shariah, or Islamic law, to be “the official law of the land” varies widely around the world, from fewer than 8 percent in Azerbaijan to 99 percent in Afghanistan. “Solid majorities” in most predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, however, favor the establishment of Islamic law. (The report did not ask the same question of American Muslims.)

That view did not preclude religious tolerance, the survey found, as most Muslims also favor religious freedom for people of other faiths.

The reason for the variation? “Muslims have different understandings of what Shariah means in practice,” said James Bell, the Pew Research Center’s director of international survey research, adding that support for Shariah cut across age, gender, and economic groups.

In most countries surveyed, majorities of Muslim women and men agreed that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband, including more than 90 percent in Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

The 157-page report is based on more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in more than 80 languages with self-identifying Muslims in 39 countries and territories. The report combines findings from a 2011-2012 survey of 24 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe and a 2008-2009 survey of 15 other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Fiqh Or Fiction: Why Islamic Finance Needs Standardized Training

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

A Fatwa, or expert legal opinion of one or more Islamic scholars, is the highest level of accreditation granted to a transaction, product, or institution in Islamic finance. Islamic banks esteem Fatwas. And Islamic banking customers esteem Fatwas. Yet Islamic finance training programmes continue to turn to academic and professional bodies for Shari’ah accreditation. Why?

From whence this came one can only guess. Perhaps the word “accreditation” itself naturally harks one back to the leafy environs of one’s campus and conjures up images of stone pillars and gilded arches.

After all, accreditation and academia havealways gone hand in hand. Or perhaps it is the Islamic finance industry’s natural tendency to replicate the conventional finance industry, and thereby errantly impose upon the Islamic educational paradigm a western educator’s sensibility.

Whatever the origins of this mistake, Islamic finance is ultimately about Islam. And in Islam, accreditation is not about the sanctity of a particular hall of academia or the credentials of a professor; it is about the Islamic qualification of the accreditor – qualification proper to a particular Islamic science, in this case the application of Islamic commercial law, and qualification proper to the individual or institution issuing the opinion, in this case a Fatwa.
After all, it was the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said, “Whoever is given a Fatwa without knowledge, his sin is but upon the person who gave him the opinion” (Abu Dawud).

What Does Standardised and accredited training Mean in Islamic Finance?

Of the many challenges now facing the Islamic financial industry, perhaps the greatest two are:

1. Accreditation by scholars, not academic and professional bodies – the importance of an Islamic finance scholar certifying a training programme is paramount and
2. Standardisation in training – the importance of this scholar-certified training conforming to a widely accepted Islamic finance standard.

There is not a single industry in the world that does not enforce standards: banking, construction, transportation, food, and drug companies, to name but a few. And yet Islamic finance training, the very building block of the industry, is conspicuous in its absence of standards. This is a root problem for all practitioners for which almost every other problem is but a symptom.

Lack of standardisation is felt most acutely in the industry’s face-to-face training sector, where just about anyone with passable product knowledge stands before an audience of eager bankers and waxes lyrical about the virtues of Islamic finance. Of course, it would be acceptable if this trainer merely repeated the positions of those qualified to speak on the matter.

But more often than not, this unqualified trainer, professor, or writer assigns the role of scholar unto himself, guessing through an answer here, issuing a pronouncement there, with little regard for established industry standards. Seemingly innocent at first.

But these same audience members then go out into the marketplace and begin putting what they learn to practice. If they remember nothing else from the trainer, they rarely forget his casual attitude towards the high standards of the Shari’ah, and his ready willingness to issue his own “Fatwas” – a willingness they soon adopt. Non-scholar trainers may convey legal positions, but they may not create them.

Accrediting academic bodies like universities, degree programmes, professional bodies, and accrediting institutes have a place, no doubt, in ensuring high pedagogical standards. Delivery standards in Islamic finance training span the spectrum from excellent to illegal. But pedagogy is not the same thing as Islamic finance. In Islamic finance, accredited training means training approved by a scholar who confirms that the content fully adheres to a particular standard.
And not just any scholar. In order to be qualified to approve something in Islamic finance, one must first be a trained and experienced Islamic scholar who possesses, foremost, deep knowledge of the Shari’ah with, at minimum, demonstrated, peerreviewed competence in at least one of the traditional schools of jurisprudence. And second, he must bring practical, working knowledge of banking and finance, complemented by actual experience in the contemporary marketplace.

Standardised AAOIFI Based Training Promotes Shari’ah Harmonisation

In 1991, the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI, pronounced “a-yo-fee”) formed as an independent, non-profit, standard-setting body with a remit to promulgate Islamic finance standards for the entire industry. Twenty years on, AAOIFI is now widely regarded by banks and governments as the de facto industry standard for Islamic finance practitioners. In fact, numerous central banks and financial service authorities now recommend the standards as a source of guidance for local banks.

AAOIFI’s regularly updated texts have become the definitive reference work for those seeking a comprehensive rule book about Islamic financial products and practices. Its 85 standards cover everything from accounting and auditing to governance and productspecific Shari’ah standards. The 16 to 20 scholars – the number depending on the year – who sit on AAOIFI’s Shari’ah board are leading Islamic finance scholars who come from the Gulf, South Asia, South East Asia, Africa, and North America; each of them legally qualified to issue a Fatwa and adjudicate on matters Islamic finance. And for a religion that deeply values scholarly consensus, or Ijma, as one of the main sources for legal derivation in Islamic jurisprudence, it is a relief to hear one scholar put it this way: “AAOIFI is the closest thing we have to Ijma in Islamic finance.”

Training Accreditation By Scholars, Not Academic And Professional Bodies

According to AAOIFI’s Stipulation and Ethics of Fatwa in the Institutional Framework, the standards for issuing a Fatwa are, at minimum, knowledge of: Islamic jurisprudence in financial transactions; how to derive rulings from primary sources; Islamic jurisprudential contributions of other scholars; contemporary issues in the financial industry. Moreover, the individual should demonstrate discernment, scrupulousness, and peer-reviewed competence within the financial industry.

In order to fully comprehend the complexity of the scholar’s task, one should reflect upon the competing demands placed upon him when deriving a ruling from the Qur’an and Hadith (prophetic traditions) corpus; Hadith which number in the tens of thousands for those that are rigorously authenticated (Sahih) and exceed one million when counted as separate chains of transmission. As one scholar notes, knowledge of the primary texts consists in knowing, among many other things, “the ‘Amm, a text of general applicability to many legal rulings, and its opposite; the Khass, that which is applicable to only one ruling or type of ruling; the Mujmal, that which requires other texts to be fully understood, and its opposite; the Mubayyan, that which is plain without other texts; the Mutlaq, that which is applicable without restriction, and its opposite; the Muqayyad, that which has restrictions given in other texts; the Nasikh, that which supersedes previous revealed rulings, and its opposite; the Mansukh: that which is superseded; the Nass: that which unequivocally decides a particular legal question, and its opposite; the Dhahir: that which can bear more than one interpretation.”

This lengthy description of the minutiae facing the scholar in only one area of Ijtihad, or personal legal reasoning, is particularly relevant in an age when pretenders to the task open the doors of scholarship unto themselves. Lest one decry that such high standards only complicate matters, and that God’s word is divinely protected, we should have the humility to remind ourselves that divine protection relates to the word of God, not to our ability to derive rulings from it.

It is not lost on anyone the rareness of such individuals in present times. In a perfect world, such a scholar would be the trainer himself. But until there are enough scholars to go around, the best that we can do, and the least we must, is obtain their consent when accrediting a training programme.

Fatwa Shopping and the Harms of less than 100 percent Standardisation

When training content is anything less than 100 per cent standardised to AAOIFI, discrepancies between the learner’s knowledge and the market’s practice abound. This rift widens into a chasm of confusion and leads to what can only be euphemistically described as the banker’s penchant for “Fatwa shopping”: finding the right Fatwa to fit your needs, rather than tempering your needs to comply with the Fatwa. At best, this occasionally costs some banks and customers their money. At worst, this laxity costs the whole industry its credibility.

A number of Islamic finance trainers now work with guidebooks and other material that is merely “authored” by a scholar or “supervised” by a scholar. But what we often end up with is material that is 80 percent or 90 percent AAOIFI-based, “Shari’ah-compliant” according to somebody perhaps, but not uniformly Shari’ah-compliant according to any particular mainstream collectivity.

When trainers fail to conform their content 100 percent against a widely accepted standard, newcomers get confused: “why is this guidebook telling me a product is unacceptable to most of the industry, but teaching it to me anyway?”

It is not always quite clear where the Shari’ah-compliant part of the guidebook ends and where the non-compliant part begins. What is a newcomer in Islamic finance supposed to do?

Addressing Common Questions

Shifting training certification away from conventional academic and professional bodies to Islamic finance scholars requires a paradigm shift in our collective thinking. Common questions and comments, and how to address them, include: Why follow a single standard when scholars cannot agree among themselves, and each bank has its own Shari’ah board? Does AAOIFI have an answer for everything?

Standards should be specific enough to be of technical benefit to the practitioner, and general enough to be of practical benefit to the broader audience in a variety of situations. Most Islamic finance scholars already acknowledge that AAOIFI is the leading standard-setting body in the industry. Differences in opinion between qualified scholars is a part of Islamic finance, indeed a part of Islam. But the operative word here is “qualified,” and difference of opinion between laypersons is part of the problem.

Shari’ah harmonisation in training has the immediate effect of getting all the stakeholders in the industry moving in one direction. The laborious work of Ijtihad then returns to those qualified to adjudicate on the matter, far from the din of confusion now plaguing the lay audience. It is impossible for AAOIFI to anticipate every possible question on every possible matter.
Operationalising rulings is the work of the banks’ Shari’ah advisors. However, for purposes of training, which is more general in nature, AAOIFI provides sufficient depth..

About Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance

Winner of "Best Islamic Finance Qualification" at the Global Islamic Finance Awards, Ethica is chosen by more professionals for Islamic finance certification than any other organization in the world. Training and certifying thousands of professionals in over 100 financial institutions in 47 countries, Ethica’s 4-month Certified Islamic Finance Executive (CIFE) is the only globally recognized certificate accredited by scholars to fully comply with AAOIFI, the world's leading Islamic finance standard. Ethica’s award-winning CIFE is delivered 100% online or live at the bank. The Dubai-based institute is now supported by Licensed Ethica Resellers in 11 countries. For more information, please call +971-4-455-8690 or e-mail at info@ethicainstitute.com.

(Courtesy: Ethica Institue of Islamic Finance)

Muslim Scholars Revive Values of Ijma

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

Muslim scholars from more than 80 countries are meeting in Turkey to discuss ways of reviving Ijma (scholarly consensus) and unity among Muslims

By Dr Wael Shihab

Istanbul: A galaxy of renowned Muslim scholars and intellectuals from around the world came together Saturday, April 27, in a two-day symposium to discuss ways of reviving Ijma (scholarly consensus) and unity among Muslims.

"Ijma protects the Muslim nation against superstitions and deviation from the straight path of Islam," Professor Mehmet Gormez, head of Turkey's Religious Affairs, told attendees.

"Muslims should present Islam as the Prophet (peace and blessing be on him) himself presented it. The Gulen Movement and the Dialogue of Civilizations"Ijma calls for the renewal of ijtihad (personal juristic reasoning). . . . It also calls for the unity of vision and methodological approach of the Muslim community."

Themed "Ijma as a Common Road and Collective Awareness", the symposium brings together scholars and intellectuals from more than 80 countries.

Prominent among attendees are leader of Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda party Rachid Ghannouchi, Mufti of Oman Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalili and Egypt's former Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa.

Dozens of papers and studies will be presented and discussed during the two-day meeting.
Dr. Essam Al-Bashir, Head of the Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Academy of Sudan, called on Muslims to unite over the basics and principal foundations of Islam.

"We have to accept and respect justifiable differences over secondary issues of religion as it is Allah’s will to create people with different colors, reasons, and understanding skills."

This year's symposium is co-organized by the Yeni Ümit and Hira magazines.

"This year's symposium is the sixth such event we have organized,” Dr. Ergun Çapan, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Umit magazine, told OnIslam.net.

"Previous symposiums studied significant topics such the Qur’an, the Prophet’s biography and Sunnah (the Prophet’s actions, deeds, approvals, and descriptions), and solving social problems through the Prophet’s path."

The Yeni Ümit magazine is a monthly magazine on Islamic knowledge and literature. It reaches out to around 100,000 people every month.

Renowned Islamic scholars Professor Hayrettin Karaman and Suat Yıldırım are among the members of the magazine's advisory board.

Hira, the other organizer, is a magazine published in Arabic by Kaynak Publishing. It reaches out to people in many Islamic countries.

Among the contributors to the magazine are many writers, thinkers and intellectuals from the Arab world. It is published as a quarterly.

Ijma Culture

Organizers hope that the meeting would help revive the spirit and culture of Ijma among Muslims.

"We aim at reviving the spirit, culture, and values of Ijma," Nevzat Savaş, the editor-in-chief of Hira magazine, told OnIslam.net.

He lamented that Muslims at present are divided.

"We try to do something to bring Muslims’ together through studying the values of Ijma."
He said that this year's event would not study Ijma from a Shari`ah perspective only.

"Other significant dimensions—such as social, educational, and political implications of Ijma—will be discussed too," he added.

Attendees will discuss topics as authority of Ijma in legislation, Ijma in the time of the Prophet and his Companions and Ijma in the Qur’anic context.

Topics will also focus on the educational and social dimensions of Ijma and the applicability of Ijma in modern context.

The theme of this year's event has been proposed by prominent Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen.

A charismatic Muslim scholar, author, poet and educational activist, Gulen is a champion of interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turning religion into a political ideology.

Gulen, who is living in Pennsylvania, has authored over 60 books and many articles.
He has been the subject of several academic studies.

A recent conference was held at the House of Lords, under the sponsorship of the London School of Economics and the University of London, to study him and his movement.

In 2008, American Foreign Policy magazine placed him at the top of its list of the world's Top 20 Public Intellectuals.

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

Questioning God from a Christian and Muslim perspective

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Scott Piepho

Not long ago Jesse Watters, a correspondent for the Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor, interviewed Spring breakers to expose the “left wing professors and dopey kids spouting left-wing slogans” that infest college campuses. Getting special attention was The University of Akron senior lecturer Christine Wainwright.

Wainwright teaches a class about the major religions in India. A Spring breaker accused her of trying to “convert the entire class to the Muslim religion” and of claiming that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Even O’Reilly seemed not to give much credence to the mass conversion claim, but he and Watters agreed they needed to dig into this to determine whether a college professor is really claiming that the Christian God and the Muslim God are the same God. O’Reilly quipped that if the claim is true “Allah is going to be offended.”

If they actually do the follow-up they will find out that Wainwright teaches that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. That’s because Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

That is to say both worship the God that (depending on your perspective) was recognized by or revealed to the Israelites as recounted in the Hebrew Bible (which Christians call the Old Testament – ecumenism requires lots of parentheticals.)

Judaism, and its two offspring Christianity and Islam, all embraced firm monotheism at a time when most nations and tribes were polytheistic. Mohammed lived on the Arabian Peninsula among polytheistic tribes and believed his revelation, which became the Qur’an, came from the God of Jews and Christians.

Islam stands in a similar relation to Judaism as Christianity does – a belief in a particular, identified God, coupled with a belief in a new revelation that the parent faith does not necessarily accept as authentic. Muslims and Christians differ, but they differ in their beliefs regarding the nature of the God they each believe in.

Allah is simply the Arabic word for “God,” not a new name for God or a designation of a new God. Muslims don’t really say “there is no God but Allah, they say there is no God but God or no Allah but Allah.

So before we get too kumbaya, let us acknowledge that there are real problems with how Islam is practiced today. We in the West broadly describe that problem as the relationship between the faith and people flying airplanes into buildings.

People can have good faith disagreements about the exact relationship between those two things. But pretending that Islam is a religion wholly alien and different from Christianity is not a good faith disagreement. It is demonstrably wrong and carries with it the unspoken and bad faith corollary that intolerance is so deeply woven into the DNA of Islam that Muslims cannot coexist with nonbelievers.

As much as the West may feel itself in conflict with Islam, many within the faith see the real struggle as between hard line orthodox believers versus moderates who advocate liberalization and peaceful coexistence. Moderate Muslims can point to passages in the Qur’an promising that members of the other Abrahamic faiths will be saved as long as they keep God’s commandments.

Islam is not inherently violent, intolerant or totalitarian – at least not to a degree significantly greater than the other two Abrahamic faiths. All three lend themselves to a reading that those who do not follow the faith are enemies of God and therefore enemies of His followers. Jacob is depicted as committing divinely sanctioned genocide; Jesus says “None come to the Father except through me.” But each can also be read as a command to love and respect everyone.
In the West we have a stake in the outcome of the ongoing struggle within Islam. If even a majority of Muslims believe they are irreconcilably in conflict with the West, we are in for a dreary future. As Boston showed, even a few isolate individuals with that belief can cause unimaginable misery.

Westerners taking sides with the reformers do them no favors. Mainstream Islam is sufficiently suspicious of Western motives – not entirely without reason – that Western support for reformation would undermine its legitimacy.

But bellicose rhetoric against Islam generally also offers succor to hard-liners. When the Bill O’Reillys of the world advance a vision that pits Christianity against Islam in a reconcilable, winner-take all struggle they give grist for the Islamist propaganda mill. We tolerate such intolerance at our peril.

(Courtesy: Daily Legal News)

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