More than 1,000 Indonesian Muslims gathered in front of the presidential palace on Sunday to press the government to ban a Muslim sect that has been branded heretical by most Muslims.
An Indonesian government team is drafting a decree that will ban the Ahmadiyya sect, which views itself as Muslim but has been branded a heretical group by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country’s highest Muslim authority.
Chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Great)” and “Disband Ahmadiyya”, the members of the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), a group of about 50 Muslim organisations, urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue the decree.
“We are pushing the president to immediately issue a presidential decree disbanding Ahmadiyya,” FUI Secretary General Muhammad Al Khaththath told Reuters.
The FUI also asked the government to capture Ahmadiyya’s leaders and seize all its assets.
Archive for the 'Islam & Muslims' Category
Race and color did matter in the Muslim world and they still do. However, the colourline is not exactly the same as that in pre-abolition America. I would say in the Muslim World it’s like the one-drop rule in reverse, as seen by so many African ethnic communities that are predominantly Muslim claiming Arab ancestry. As the majority of Muslim societies are patrilineal one’s mother’s ethnic origin doesn’t really count. Actually, sometimes slave women (not all of them Black) were preferred because they had no families or social ties to the communities they were enslaved in so there was a great deal of Muslims who rose to prominence whose mothers were Black slaves. This was true in the Pre-Islamic era as well (Note the famous story of warrior poet Antar ibn Shaddad). However, to totally ignore how these prejudices created oppressive and racist power structures within Muslim Societies in Africa is incomprehensible.
Martin E. Marty does so (not literally, of course):
Islam has no central authority. It is a family religion, a village religion, with millions of bases for a billion believers. Islam is not an institution or a dogma. When one calls for the destruction of Islam one has to mean the killing of all Muslims. Rather than accuse Parsley of calling for genocide, it is in place to ask him to spell out alternatives. Does “destroy” Islam mean winning a debate until every last targeted Muslim cries uncle and says, “I give up, you win”? He may mean that. Does the “destruction of Islam” mean the deconversion of a billion people and, preferably, conversion to Parsley’s “Christian civilization”? Try converting as many as one in your town, and then take on the millions more in Indonesia. Does “destroy” mean bombing the 1,209 mosques in America, which number includes only a few of the world-wide total? As of now, Parsley simply calls for “war.” By most definitions, doesn’t “war” mean “killing”?
Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim has seen what can happen to an Islamic reformer: His mentor was executed in 1985 in Sudan; he himself had to flee the country. Still, the self-described “Muslim heretic” has no trouble traveling the Islamic world spreading his controversial message:
There is no such thing as an Islamic state.
A secular state and human rights are essential for all societies so that Muslims and others can practice their faith freely, he tells his co-religionists.
“My motivation is in fact about being an honest, true-to-myself Muslim, rather than someone complying with state dictates,” says Mr. Naim, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta since 1999. “I need the state to be neutral about religious doctrine so that I can be the Muslim I choose to be.”
So committed is this scholar to opening the door to free debate within his faith that he helped organize the first “Muslim Heretics Conference” in Atlanta over the weekend. Some 75 Muslims, engaged in various reform projects, gathered to discuss issues related to sharia (Islamic law), democracy, and women’s rights – and how to cope with dissent and its consequences.
“We celebrate heresy simply to promote innovative thinking,” he says. “Every orthodoxy was at one time a heresy.”
Naim’s personal project involves what he calls “negotiating the future of sharia.” As Islamic societies struggle to define themselves in a globalized world and some talk of creating Islamic states to codify sharia, he says the state and religion must be kept separate. But religion should still have its place in political life, allowing Muslims to express principles of sharia as they see fit. He believes this is truly Islamic, and that articulating the reasons why will help ordinary Muslims not be taken in by political slogans.
“I know for a fact that Abdullahi has a following among young Muslims in places like Malaysia and Indonesia,” says John Esposito, head of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “These people are often marginalized in their societies, but over time, these positions can become mainstream.”
Shi’a Islam was almost unknown in Nigeria until the early 1980s when Muslim radical Ibrahim Zakzaky, fired by the Iranian revolution, campaigned for an Islamic government and stricter adherence to sharia, or Islamic law.
For many youths in the poor, predominantly Muslim north, joining Zakzaky’s movement was an act of rebellion against a disappointing political and religious establishment.
Zakzaky’s personal religion is an eclectic blend of Sunni and Shi’ite ideas but many of his followers have come to identify themselves as Shi’ites.
For Sunnis in Sokoto, these followers present a threat to their own religious hierarchy.
Africa’s most populous country is plagued by frequent outbreaks of violence because of a volatile mix of ethnic diversity, religious rivalry and byzantine politics.
Fighting between ethnic and religious groups has killed thousands in a country split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
This complex mix is also apparent in Sokoto, where the Sunni-Shi’ite divide is more than just religious.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the heir of Usman Dan Fodio, a scholar and warrior who launched a jihad from Sokoto in the early 19th century, uniting large swathes of what is now northern Nigeria under the banner of Islam and invigorating the religion in West Africa.
Some Shi’ites say the modern Sultanate and political authorities in Sokoto have deviated from Dan Fodio’s path.
“The government feels threatened by us because we recognise no other authority than that of Allah. That is why they support the Sunnis,” said activist Malami Muhammad Alkanci, 28.
I was on a blogstroll and came across this post by a Birmingham Mail blogger Faraz Yousufzai:
Islam has almost 1500 years of profound theological, legal and social scholarship. Never in that time has there ever been a ‘branch’ of thought that promoted the indiscrimate taking of life. ‘Extremism’ as we now term it, is probably best described as a post post modernist 20th century ideology. It has no roots in ANY faith – no matter what it claims.
What about the more fanatical amongst the Kharijites? Can all Muslim fanaticism or ‘extremism’ be passed off as purely the outcome of ‘external’ factors (e.g. ‘Western ideologies’, colonialism)? I am not sure this is a satisfying explanation, and at times borders on a sort of intellectual cowardice which is unable to ask and answer tougher questions.
I was reading Spenglers’s latest opinion piece and have to say I almost reached the same near death experience due to boredom I suffered when reading Ed Husain’s latest offering. Please, all you professional polemicists, try and engage your reader. Try and be funny. Take a polemicist like Christopher Hitchens; when sober enough to write he can be genuinely witty in his attacks and rants against religious believers and his enemies on the British left. Spengler, on the other hand, can at times read like a bad Victor Davis Hanson parody (at least one can learn something from reading a professor of military history). And this latest was a very tired piece, full of the usual stabs at Islam. Is the Asia Times columnist running out of ideas?
I have always found it odd that Christian conservatives posit Islam as the barbaric outsider, when in fact the real death cult is right at the heart of all forms of Christianity (and the many atrocities that have followed from that). Spengler, however, is always refreshingly honest on this point.
It would be quite easy to take undermine the ‘Judeo-Christian’ viewpoint Spengler promotes, or pick apart his odd claims about Christian universalism, or comment on his abuse of a brief note on procedural law as discussed by classical Muslim jurists. But I don’t actually see the value in ‘fisking’ pieces like Spengler’s. The thing with polemics is that they’re meant to simplify fuzzy boundaries, solidify muddy centres and patrol the borders of group identity. They are not designed to be informative or a way of learning something. Polemicists promote an orthodox position and rebut heresies. They tell us who is on our side and who is the enemy. Everyone engages in these polemics, Muslims no less than others.
Nonetheless, I think there is some value to this particular Spengler piece on whether Islam can be blamed for ‘barbaric’ acts. Islamphobes and Dhummies wail loudly that Muslims are required by their beliefs to destroy and supplant other cultures. Spengler, however, actually acknowledges that Islam has not replaced the cultures into which it arrived (he accuses Islam of allowing practices like honour killing or female genital mutilation room to continue breathing). This means he acknowledges, implicitly, that Muslims in the West can to integrate and participate fully in their societies.
Ruth Gledhill, Times correspondent on religion and blogger, had a post on the controversial Turkish hadith project. I think I have said as much as I can about this topic, but wanted to note a glaring historical error in her blog post. She writes:
['Interpretation' of texts] was the general practice until about 1400, when the Caliphate, based in Turkey, announced that this process of interpretation was closed. The Caliphate decreed that Islam had reached such a state of perfection, no further reasoning was necessary.
I have no idea where she got the impression that around 1400 the Caliphate was in “Turkey” (there was no state-like entity called “Turkey” in 1400!). Nor do I know how she (or the Times correspondent Michael Binyon who she says she spoke to) formed the idea that the caliphate made a decree that the “process of interpretation was closed”.
Starting with the plainer facts, it should be noted that the Abbasid Caliphate was brought to a shuddering halt in 1258 at the hands of the Mongols (who committed something of a ‘holocaust’ against the people of this area), when they sacked Baghdad. Thereafter, a ‘shadow’ caliphate existed in Cairo under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt, who installed a relative of the Abbasids to the role of caliph (and it doesn’t take a PhD in Islamic history to work out where the power rested in that political relationship). When the Ottomans ended Mamluk independence in 1517, one might naturally assume they took on the role of caliphs; such a view would be understandable, although there is some controversy over this. Around 1400, the Ottomans themselves were still growing as an empire. And even when they did acquire Mamluk lands in the 1500s, there is a question mark over whether had indeed become caliphs. In fact, it is suggested the Ottomans did not use the title of caliph with any real vigour (preferring the title of sultan like other dynastic empires before them) until 1774 at the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca. (I think it is also worth mentioning that in Muslim Spain, which came to an end by the mid-1400s, a rival caliphate was also announced; and this all without even considering the Shi’i claims to leadership of Islam.)
Next, I have to say Gledhill’s claim that “the Caliphate decreed that Islam had reached such a state of perfection [that] no further reasoning was necessary” is nonsensical. There are two parts to this.
First, as a matter of faith, Islam is “perfect” for Muslims as the sources of religion (the Qur’an and the prophetic sunna) are considered completed: nothing can be added or taken from these sources.
The second part to this, and in some ways more important, is that slippery word interpretation. I am not aware that the caliphate decreed “reasoning unnecessary” in 1400 (for, as we have just discussed, there was no actual caliphate with the power to do so in or around 1400). In fact, most charges of the closure of ‘reasoning’ are laid at the feet of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, who lived and died long before 1400. Aside from this claim being historically inaccurate and a gross misrepresentation of al-Ghazali’s views, as discussed by some (Western) scholars of Islamic history, it is a wholly mistaken notion that ‘reasoning’ came to an end amongst Muslims. As I noted in my brief note on the Turkish hadith project, it is almost always the case that the extent and the scope of interpretation, and the question of who can undertake such a task, is the source of intellectual conflict amongst Muslims, not merely the idea of ‘reasoning’ from Islamic texts.
People who we can loosely call ‘traditionalists’ view the boundaries of intellectual conflict have been formed and settled upon, and it is within these confines (which are larger than you think) that reasoning can continue to take place, albeit in the hands of a specialist trained in Islamic knowledges. (For example, Muslims who want answers to a novel situation they find themselves in have traditionally turned to someone who is considered suitably trained. How does this problem get resolved? The trained specialist will turn to various texts and ‘reason’ from them.) On the other side of the divide, are those who we can loosely label ‘modernists’ do not hold these boundaries to be boundaries at all, but outcomes of time and place (i.e. history). They feel these boundaries can be re-created and re-formed by different communities. And then there are a whole set of people who are somewhere in between (in fact, my traditionalist/modernist dividing line is porous).
While I agree the second part of my response to Gledhill — on the need for reasoning — is a source of perpetual conflict amongst Muslims (so understandable if she is unable to provide the whole picture), checking basic facts like the existence (or not) of caliphates is very easy. I don’t think this is specifically a “Muslim problem” journalists like Gledhill have (and again this is understandable as they are less familiar with Muslim themes and histories). Rather it is a general problem with ‘churnalism’, where facts are loose or don’t exist and you can just make things up if you need to. And blogging only makes churnalism easier — afterall, “it’s only a blog”, so who cares right?
Having said that, this is the second time someone writing for the Times has just made up what can be considered rather basic historical facts when it comes to discussing topics involving Muslims. Last year, I noticed Michael Burleigh doing the same thing, and he is meant to have a PhD in history.