Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Religious Extremism or Extremely Religious; A Feminine Perspective

Religious Extremism or Extremely Religious; A Feminine Perspective

By Inas Younis, New Age Islam
30 December 2015
Headline: Extremist Peace Lovers Unleash Violent Acts of Kindness on the World.  Famous comedian responds, “You could easily spot any religion of peace. Its extremist members would be extremely peaceful.” His point of course, is that there is no such thing as moderate or extreme peace. Peace, like all religious principles does not require hyphenations. It is what it is. And since religion deals with the infinite part of human existence, it too should be immune to extremism. Once religion becomes extreme, it is no longer religion but a secular ideology. It changes nature the minute it steps out of its own atmosphere. But the restraints imposed by religion are not the only factor that keeps true men of God from becoming extremists. Reality also has something to say about the matter.
Extremism is a largely secular phenomenon, because extremism is actually a necessary condition to the application of natural law. The laws of physics do not change and one must be extreme and precise in applying them. A mathematical equation has only one answer, and an approximation no matter how close is not close enough.  One cannot be moderately dead, or moderately pregnant. And when a tree falls in the forest it does make a sound, even if no one is there to hear it.
In the secular world our perceptions are irrelevant. In the secular world logic rules and all of existence is the result of an extreme commitment to order and precision. Religious extremism is no exception to this process. Religious extremism is really just the unsuccessful attempt at applying static laws to fluid timeless principles; an attempt that is both futile and fatal.
The desire to apply mathematical-like logic to govern a man’s consciousness stems from the masculine need for objectivity.  Men function best in the physical realm because it is something they can master as masters of the material world. Men do not fare well in a world of ambiguity, and so it is tempting to reduce religion to the black and white formulas of science.
We often get defensive when we are told that our religion is full of contradictions, forgetting that the built in contradictions in religion, or what we euphemistically refer to as paradox, are injected to preserve the integrity of a thinking mind. They are there to provide us with flexibility. For example, we are called to make peace and make war. Turn the other cheek, but slap them with the other hand. Say yes to chastity and oh yes to sex. Choose mercy and choose justice. Accept that good deeds will save us but ultimately concede that its God’s will and not our actions that lead to our salvation. We must believe in free will and predestination. In order for man to negotiate his way through these, the paradoxes of religious jurisprudence, he must evolve the capacity to think abstractly.  He must be able to integrate concepts and apply them to various contexts. To be religious is to be intelligent. To be religious does not mean to have an open mind, because those can be just as dangerous as closed ones. It means that you must have an active working gushing moving feeling one. To be religious means to be alive. Extremism on the other hand, is the negation of all such emotional considerations in the interest of social order at any cost.
All the various manifestations of extremism are clearly not driven by God or religion but by a man’s desperate need to prove that he can control the one thing that refuses to submit to static laws of nature- human consciousness. Extremists do not desire worldly pleasure, they desire predictability. Whether it’s a psychiatric condition or a politically induced one, anxiety and fear is at the root of all forms of extremism.
The tragic irony is that the greatest antidote to religious extremism is in fact religion itself. And we have made a terrible mistake in calling a man with a secular ideology, like Hitler, evil. But we refer to a man with similar designs, as a Muslim extremist. By associating extremism with religion, we may have neutralized the only power that can vaccinate men from this proclivity. And although we moderates are not responsible for the rise in extremism, we are in fact responsible for solidifying this association even in our own minds. For one thing, we have remained fixated on the mechanics of religious observance at a time when love and compassion should have been taking precedence. We have relinquished the spiritual ambiance of a religion that promises infinite possibilities to the daily drum rolls of religious limitations and opportunistic politicking.  But even worse, we have made the mistake of equating moderation with social liberalism and relaxed religious observance, which has made some buy into the conservative smear campaigns against us.
A moderate is not a person for whom anything goes. A moderate is a person who honours pluralism and creative tension as a precondition to our social and spiritual evolution. A moderate person is uncomfortable with the status quo because he has surrendered himself to God, and does not feel the impulse to accrue social capital or achieve status by association. To be moderate does not mean being washy washy.  On the contrary, it means being very firm in the belief that freedom of conscience cannot co exist with any institutionalized forms of coercion or psychological intimidation of any kind. Where moderates have failed, is in not appropriating enough juridical authority to officially make this case.
So until we iron things out to the extent that we have an identity that is impervious to the emotional blackmail of some of our co religionists, we should not be peaceful, but always struggling, always negotiating, always growing.  We should never be peaceful but we should always be at peace, with one another and with ourselves.  And peace be with you.
Inas Younis is a freelance writer residing in Kansas. She has written for Muslim Girl Magazine and her work was featured in the anthology Living Islam Out Loud. She contributed this article to New Age Islam.

Political Spin given to Christmas Goodwill Message

Political Spin given to Christmas Goodwill Message

By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
30 December 2015
In his Christmas address, United States President Barack Obama paid tribute to US soldiers; “You help keep us free. You help keep us strong. And whatever service you're in, we are extraordinarily grateful for everything you do every single day," Obama said.
Simply put – We are always right to deploy you wherever you are. Carry on doing the fighting.
The Australian Prime Minister Mr Turnbull also did likewise and said; “In particular, we thank the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are serving overseas this Christmas …”
Meaning – We are sorry you are not enjoying Christmas with your loved ones at home but we were obliged to put you in that position. Carry on never the less.
The soldiers, American, Australian or of other nations in today’s sophisticated world, unlike Genghiz Khan’s,  are generally referred to as members of Defence Forces, with the implied meaning that they are assigned the duty to defend their own nation when attacked.
This may be extended in special circumstances, to mean that the soldiers are obliged to defend others with whom their nation has defence treaty when it is attacked by enemy-forces. Historians could site many such examples where members of one nation’s defence forces were sent to other nation country for the purpose of defending it when attacked.
The spin that oozes out of some goodwill messages given by politicians this time of the year, then to single out the soldiers serving in wars of aggression outside their own boarders; is that our soldiers are fighting the “just wars” on behalf of our client and enlisted friends, even though these friends may or may not have defence treaty with us.
The spin given in acknowledging the soldiers sacrifices at this religious festive season camouflages the desire to defend the political decision taken to send the soldiers to fight these wars abroad; ala “Former British PM admits ‘mistakes’ and conflict’s role in rise of Islamic State but defends armed intervention in 2003”. Armed intervention is part of holy war even if it is a mistake!
Prime Minister David Cameron of UK, to his credit however came a bit closer to the real spirit of the Christmas. Although the obligatory acknowledgement of the defence services was there, one assumes for the above given reason. He said: “If there is one thing people want at Christmas, it’s the security of having their family around them and a home that is safe. But not everyone has that. Millions of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad.”
Really? Were these refugee camps there in the time of Assad or in the beginning of Bashar’s time?
But spoken in the true spirit of the goodwill season- “We must pay tribute to the thousands of doctors, nurses, carers and volunteers who give up their Christmas to help the vulnerable – and to those who are spending this season even further from home…”. His heart seems to be in the right place. Politically his mind may not be though.
“Right now, our brave armed forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria, targeting the terrorists that threaten those countries and our security at home; on the seas of the Mediterranean, saving those who attempt the perilous crossing to Europe; and on the ground, helping to bring stability to countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan.”
Why are they attempting the perilous crossings of seas to Europe? How stable are these countries now after decades of armed attempts at “stabilising” these countries from where these unfortunate refugees swim the Mediterranean?
The British Monarch, head of Commonwealth said that Jesus Christ's message was not one of revenge or violence, but of love. Referring to the Bible She added- “We can lift some of those shadows by sharing our love with others — beyond our family and close friends.” After all the Monarch holds the title – ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’.
Then there is the statements of the Pontiff, Pope Frances: “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire…”. For sure he has no forces deployed in other countries, so he can only pray and desire, being a man of God with no armed forces.
He named almost every country, Muslim and non-Muslim in conflict today, whether in religious, political or social aspects – from Palestine to Colombia and all in-between and added further in significance “…that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and mutual understanding.”
But the political powers understand that dialogue means it is only to be carried out by the use of guns and deploying soldiers.
It is also futile to remind the self-proclaimed Khalifas and the false defender of the Faith of Islam that their own Book of faith, the Quran had endorsed the Pontiff’s above statement at the very inception of the Faith- Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and sound arguments and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious…16-125. And:
Say to my obedient servants that they should converse only in the soundest way: for Satan does sow dissensions among them; for Satan is to mankind an avowed enemy 17- 53. Add to this the following and then the message is complete:
And dispute you not with the people of the Book except with the means better unless it be with those of who inflict wrong and injury: but say “we believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; for our God and your God is ONE and it is to Him we bow in faith.29-46.
It is absolutely fair that soldiers who perform their assigned duty should be thanked, particularly during festive times when they should be with their loved ones to enjoy the festival like all others.
However for simple minded person the questions remain to the politicians to explain how their “Defence” forces go on “Offensive” in other countries with whom it has no treaty of mutual defence. Is implementing a political “Regime change” in other countries part of the Defence forces obligatory duty under oath?
Does this fall within the definition of Democracy?
Is it not obvious that peace and harmony among mankind is not high on the priority list of political powers and its operatives! Messages of revealed Books are turned into religious texts and politics and religion should not mix, it is said.
The ONE God’s Revelations are of fundamental values for whole of mankind. Religions are man-made to manipulate His Divine values. That is why the poet had said:
Jalaal-e-paadshahi ho ke hjamhuri tamasha ho,
Judaa ho Deen siyaasat se toe reh jaati hai Changezi
Whether it is the monarchy or the circus of democracy,
When the Divine Values are separated from politics what remains is Genghis-ism.
All those engaged in these games are the Genghis Khans of the modern world at the cost of destruction on large scale of humanity!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer

For A New Understanding of Islam

For A New Understanding of Islam
Sufism is the path of Islamic mystics to reach the Truth —God
By Fethullah Gülen
December 29, 2015
WORDS fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
I share profound frustration with a billion- and-a-half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terrorism while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.
It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with the core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test of belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.
We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead pro- mote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives at the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.
Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: Do our communities provide recruitment grounds for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth and lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?
The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society ac- tors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.
We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas.
Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporating democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.
In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as security-driven treatment of Muslim citizens by governments would be counter-productive.
The Muslim citizens of Europe want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.
It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam in the light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences.
This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Quran and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.
We must proactively marginalize decontextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation.
Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolute- ly necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.
In the aftermath of the recent events I am witnessing, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire.
What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of humanity with barbarity in our common civilization.
Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent ex- tremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious.
By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.
This article by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was first published in Le Monde on Dec. 17, 2015.

Saudi Author: The Islamic State Only Reaps What Has Previously Been Sown

December 28, 2015
Turki Al-Hamad says preposterously: “Our religion has been hijacked by many and has been made savage, so to speak.” But when he says, “ISIS is an organization that only reaps what has previously been sown,”he is absolutely correct: the Saudis have spent billions to propagate around the world an understanding of Islam that corresponds exactly to that of the Islamic State. It presents itself as the true and authentic manifestation of Islam, and no Muslims who oppose it have successfully refuted this claim.
In a TV interview, Saudi author Turki Al-Hamad said that there was a need for “a real revolution in our education” and for the “humanization of religion,” because “our religion has been hijacked by many and has been made savage.” He further said that “ISIS is an organization that only reaps what has previously been sown.” Al-Hamad was speaking on Sky News Arabia on November 13, 2015.
Following are excerpts:
Host: “How can we fight ISIS ideologically?”
Turki Al-Hamad: “There is no magical solution. There is no magic wand that could change things. The deformation that our societies have undergone for the past three decades will need a long time [to repair]. It should be based on the reprogramming of our cultural mentality. We should reprogram our culture in one way or another, and that can only be achieved through a real revolution in our education. The revolution in our education should be based on the humanization of religion.”
Host: “What do you mean by ‘the humanization of religion’?”
Turki Al-Hamad: “Religion is the cornerstone of our culture. But our religion has been hijacked by many and has been made savage, so to speak. Humanizing religion means to look for its humane aspects.”
“The truth is that we need a kind of religious revolution – a religious revolution that would restore religion to our Lord.”
Host: “Some accuse you, along with others associated with the liberal current, of ‘provoking the sentiments of society,’ thus pushing the youth toward extremism. How do you respond to such accusations?”
Turki Al-Hamad: “If you asked these youths, they probably wouldn’t know who I am. This is not a matter of provocation. When you present a new idea, or warn of certain disease and offer treatment – of course it is painful. This is not a provocation. This is picking [at] the wound. It is time to stop ignoring our wounds and pains just so we won’t provoke anyone. You cannot go to a doctor, for example, and tell him not touch your wound because it hurts. Of course it hurts.
 It is a wound, and it was caused by many things. If you want to treat this wound, you must touch it and deal with it directly. Unfortunately, we have not yet acknowledged the fact that ISIS is an organization that only reaps what has previously been sown.”
Turki Al-Hamad: “When I have no solution…We see the entire world contributing to modern civilization, but we have nothing to show for it. So what do we do? We do not admit that we are incapable or that we have no solution. We resort to the past as an excuse for a strategy. But returning to the past is not a strategy. It is connected, one way or another, to conspiracy narratives, and to the claim that the others are plotting against us, and that we are being targeted, and so on. All these are self-defence mechanisms.”
Turki Al-Hamad: “Where does the Muslim refugee go? To Europe and America. Where does the Muslim enjoy liberties? In Britain. A Muslim there can demonstrate in the streets of London, declare that he is against the British state, and criticize the regime. A week ago, there was a demonstration of Islamists in Denmark. They all called for an Islamic Caliphate, from the heart of Denmark, and under the protection of the local police. If Western secularism was really against religion, would people there be allowed to build mosques – or churches, for that matter?”
Host: “Are you saying that secularism is the solution?”
Turki Al-Hamad: “In many cases, separating the religious institution [from the state]… I’m not calling to shut it down, but it cannot trump all other considerations. The religious institution is a mad-made [sic] institution. We must differentiate between the religious institution and religion itself. Only religion is sacred. The religious institution is a social institution, just like many others.”…

Christian-Muslim Relations: Some Reflections

By Midhun J F Kochukallan SJ, New Age Islam
30 December 2015
The Delhi-based Islamic Studies Association, a group of Catholics engaged in the study of Islam and dialogue with Muslims, recently organised a lecture on “Christian Muslim Relations in the US—Some Recent Developments” by Prof. Irfan A. Omar, Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University, Wisconsin, USA. "Dialogue among religions is not only possible and important but also an essential part of faith formation in the Global village" was at the heart of Prof. Irfan’s presentation.
Prof. Irfan began his lecture quoting a recent essay that referred to Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si  (“Be Praised”), which cites a ninth century Sufi Muslim poet Ali al-Khawas while emphasizing the presence of God in this world.   Ali al-Khawas stressed an intimate connection (or closeness) between ‘every creature of the world and the interior experience of God’. Pope Francis cited him directly: “The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.”
We need to make Pope Francis’ words a strong foundation for building up of platforms for sustaining ongoing inter-religious dialogue.
Prof. Irfan  shared with the audience a photo of Pope John Paul II kissing the Holy Qur’an. "It is a great statement without words"' he noted. He further added: “The action of kissing the holy of book of another religion does not diminish his holiness. Instead, it increases his credibility as a religious head and a holy person.”
Both Pope Francis quoting a Muslim saint and Pope John Paul II kissing the Qur'an are solid sources of inspiration that can build and sustain dialogue. "We need to recognize that such life giving sources are there in our own religious traditions," Prof Irfan noted.
Drawing on his teaching experience at his university, the professor affirmed that we flourish when we work together. Isolation is a fertile field for prejudices, while engagement with one another will bring people together. Prof Irfan mentioned a few organisations with whom he works for interfaith learning and cooperation. He emphasized that these initiatives help address bigotry.
Midhun J F Kochukallan is a Jesuit student at Vidyajyoti College of Theology, a leading Catholic centre based in Delhi.

Islamic Thought Must Be Constantly Regenerated

By Anas Alam Faizli
December 30, 2015
Thirteen years ago, my brother, Dr Afif, chose to undertake the monumental task of memorising the Holy Quran instead of going to Form 4 after PMR. Praise be to God, he achieved it in no more than 18 weeks.
I was proud of him. Ideas gushed to my mind as to ways to expand his potential. Since he had the mental capacity, I had the notion that he should continue his regular schooling in the science stream so that he could study medicine at university and fulfil my grandmother’s wish to have a grandson who is a doctor. Imagine the fabulous combination, in one person, of deep knowledge in both the natural sciences and the science of revelation. My brother could be like one of the numerous polymaths whom we read about when we study the history of Islamic civilisation.
At a time when Islamic civilisation had long lost its dynamism in the eyes of the world, Allama Iqbal (1877-1938), in lectures compiled as “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam,” addressed the pertinent question of why modern man had been trying to separate faith from science. They had been trying to confine faith within the walls of the mosque, he complained. As a result, man had become soulless. For Iqbal, there could ultimately be only one truth. He believed that the truth discovered by faith could not be different from the truth discovered by science or history.
In the same compilation, he argued that “to have a succession of identical thoughts and feelings is to have no thoughts and feelings at all. Such is the lot of most Muslim countries today. They are mechanically repeating old values.”
Although Islamic history is replete with examples of people who were at once scientists, jurists and religious scholars, the frustration felt by Iqbal was not new. Throughout Islamic history, there have been alternating periods of progress and regress. There were times when progressive thinkers had to work against the prevailing mood of the day. An example was Ibn al-Qayyim, said to be the most passionate advocate of the Islamic scholar and logician Ibn Taymiyyah.
Al-Qayyim repeatedly sought new methods to deal with the problems of the 13th Century. He gave more weight to “formulated evidential theories” than to oral testimony. For example, he sought a way of proving a person’s fatherhood of a child by using scientific methods to identify facial similarities. He also opined that a judge could obtain a sample of a husband’s ejaculate for lab tests to measure the degree of a man’s impotence when a woman petitioned for divorce on that ground.
These instances of the marriage of science and faith seem backward today, but back in the 13th Century they represented progress. In Ibn Qayyum’s time, the imams of the day kept to the ways of their ancestors when the problems facing the Ummah had changed tremendously in all fields.
The revisiting and reconstruction of the Islamic position on a variety of issues should be a continuous process. Perhaps we need to be reminded that Imam As-Shafie, the founder of the school of fiqh (jurisprudence) that most Malays subscribe to, did himself change his opinions in certain matters, sometimes in a short span of time.
Imam Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi school, is known to have given seven different opinions with regard to a certain issue because he believed changed circumstances required him to do so. Some of his followers today who differ in opinion with earlier followers have said that if Abu Hanifah was still alive he would have adopted their new position due to the changes that have taken place.
No to dogmatism
Indeed, even today, despite the prominence in the press of dogmatic so-called scholars, many true scholars would agree that there is room for continuous change in opinion in those areas that are outside the domain of aqidah (creed). In fact, there are areas where pressing change is required, and there are areas where evolution in thought is necessary. The continuous reconstruction of religious thought must be allowed.
We have to say no to dogmatism and we have to be open to the possibility that we might be wrong sometimes. We need solutions to new problems that come with changed times or problems associated with different geographical locations or social situations. Some have become so dogmatic that they have forgotten the basic premise of legal theory (usul al-fiqh) that everything is permissible until proven wrong and not the other way around.
Islam is a religion that inculcates thinking. If we encourage thinking, and if we allow continuous discussions and debates, we will nurture intellectualism and progress. We need to question in order to understand the purpose of certain systems, rulings or judicial decisions.
On the surface, this may seem like encouragement to partake in unnecessary rebellious activities. But that is not so.
We see throughout history how often new ideas are rejected without proper deliberation. We have seen how the idea of democracy was initially rejected as haram. We have seen how the idea of women being allowed to vote was considered outrageous. But because we bothered to revisit the fundamentals of the religion, we have come to accept that democracy, although not perfect, is consistent with the spirit of Islam and we now support women as leaders.
Some of us fear for the future of Islam because of the ongoing ruckus and the continuous blackening of the religion’s name. The blame lies not on Islam itself, but on Muslims. We fear that people are shying away from looking into Islam for solutions to problems that plague the Ummah – problems in policy making, problems in the care of the environment, problems over health, economic and social issues, and so on.
If the intellectuals do not continuously revisit the teachings of Islam to suit them to changing circumstances and to do their best to provide solutions to contemporary problems, the idea that Islam is shumul (complete) and covers every aspect of life will have no meaning to the Muslim layman. Neither will the assertion that Islam is rahmatan li al-alamin (a blessing to the entire universe).
Islam is a religion of love, forgiveness and peace, a religion that inculcates and nurtures strength in its followers.
Ahmad Deedat, the late South African scholar, once said, “Imagine Islam as a perfect car and the Muslims the driver. Blame the driver, not the car” if something goes wrong.
Dr Anas Alam Faizli works in the oil and gas industry and is the author of Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians.

Making War vs. Hearing Citizen Sentiments in the Arab World

Making War vs. Hearing Citizen Sentiments in the Arab World

By Rami G. Khouri
BEIRUT — The most extensive regular poll of Arab public opinion that was released Monday in Doha, Qatar, provides timely new insights into the sentiments and values of men and women across the Arab world on issues such as the “Islamic State” (ISIS), the Arab uprisings and the role of foreign powers in the region. The immense value of such knowledge begs the question of whether any of the leading forces that now engage in military and diplomatic battles to shape the future of our region actually take into consideration the views of the beleaguered Arab citizens whose lives are most impacted.
The voices of ordinary citizens seem largely absent from events in both war-ravaged states like Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, and other countries that do not suffer active warfare, terrorism, and ethno-nationalist violence, like the Gulf states, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. This almost absolute absence of linkages between citizen sentiments and state policies is one of the major reasons for the uprisings that erupted five years ago and persist today.
Military, political, and diplomatic activity in our region today is shaped by uniformly non-democratic and unaccountable Arab governments, many of which actively make war in neighboring Arab states; local armed parties and smaller militias with assorted religious, ethnic, ideological, and tribal identities, some of which (as in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen) are stronger than their governments; foreign and Arab governments that wage warfare at will inside half a dozen Arab countries; and, some United Nations and other officials who seek to mediate diplomatic agreements to restore order and national integrity in broken lands, like Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
These dominant players operate within an orbit of narrow local and national elites that has changed very little since the retreating European powers tapped into many of these same groups to create new countries around 1920. Public opinion surveys across the Arab world allow us to penetrate beyond these narrow elites, and know precisely how masses of ordinary people feel about important issues of the day, and what they seek in their future.
The 2015 Arab Opinion Index that was released this week by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies is the largest public opinion poll of its kind in the Arab world (18,311 face-to-face interviews in 12 Arab countries, representing around 90 percent of the entire Arab population, with a margin of error of 2-3 percent). This fourth consecutive survey since 2011 confirms again that Arabs overwhelmingly oppose ISIS, with 89 percent of respondents viewing it negatively, and just seven percent positively. More important, there is no significant correlation between support for ISIS and religiosity, since “favorable views of ISIS are equally prevalent among respondents who are ‘very religious’ and those who are ‘not religious’, and also equally prevalent amongst opponents and supporters of the separation of religion from the state.”
This supports the view —widely ignored in the West — that political and socio-economic grievances, rather than religious sentiments, explain most of the support that exists for radical extremist organizations like ISIS. No consensus exists on how best to fight ISIS, but it is fascinating that the most effective means mentioned are: supporting democratic transition in the region (28%); resolving the Palestinian issue (18%); ending foreign intervention (14%); intensifying the military campaign against ISIS (14%); and, solving the Syrian crisis in line with the aspirations of the Syrian people (12%).
A solid majority of 62 percent of the Arab public sees a change in the Syrian regime as part of ending the Syria crisis, indicating, “sympathy to the aims and objectives of the Syrian revolution.”
Yet Arabs broadly are concerned about how the original Arab uprisings allowed the region to plunge into civil wars, instability, and state fragmentation, including foreign military involvement. Just 34 percent are positive on how the Arab revolutions have turned out, and 59 percent are negative. But only 5 percent of those with negative views generally oppose the revolutions; 48 percent feel the Arab revolutions face a series of challenges and obstacles, but will ultimately succeed in achieving their aims. One-third of respondent feel the uprisings are over and the old regimes have returned to power.
Dr. Mohammad Almasri, Coordinator of the Arab Opinion Index, notes that Arab citizens have lost confidence in all political movements whether Islamist or secular/nationalist, partly due to, “the discord and disarray among Arab political movements and the partisanship and conflicts between them.”
He found that 57 percent of respondents fear Islamist political movements, while 61 percent fear secular movements. This lack of consensus between these two broad categories of political movements, Almasri says, “can be exploited by anti-democratic forces to agitate for a return to authoritarianism, and will therefore prove to be an obstacle on the path to democratization.”
Those people in our region and abroad who seek real insights into Arab people’s views and values, rather than the fantasy and racism that define much of the public discussion of our region, would do well to read more about these findings on the website of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in the Daily Star. He was founding director and now senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Follow him on Twitter @ramikhouri.

Is This Palestine Arab Spring?

Is This Palestine Arab Spring?
By David Allouche
The Arab spring that spread throughout the last years in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria didn’t seem to reach effectively the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In fact, the Palestinians territories stayed mostly outside the Arab Revolutions. The Arab Spring model didn’t permit Palestinians to overcome their political divisions between the two corrupted leaderships that are Fatah and Hamas. The divisions between the two main Palestinian movements started 8 years ago in June 2007, when the movement Hamas won the elections and took control of the Gaza Strip by force of arms. Since then Palestinians Territories are divided into two territorial entities, one controlled by Hamas and funded by Qatar, the other one being controlled by Fatah and funded by the European Union and US. An Arab Spring in Palestine could have helped to bring down the existing regime and their high degree of corruption, to replace it by a new one.
Indeed, despite the changing political landscapes in the Arab World and the subsequent Revolution in neighboring countries such as Egypt, the Palestinians stayed mostly out of this popular movement. The small outburst of popular protests that broke out in subsequent years such as the April 29 movement in 2015, have been futile.
These outbursts of protests are happening once again today in Palestine, but this time, instead of being directed toward Fatah or Hamas , they are directed directly toward Israeli troops, that are occupying the West Bank.
These clashes have been conveyed mostly by social media sites. Facebook for instance has been at the heart of these clashes, permitting the Palestinians people to express their anger and despair. Social Media have served as platforms for the young citizens to criticize and express their discontent toward the major parties that are Fatah and Hamas, which are no longer sacred in the eyes of the 1990s generation, considered the main force behind the recent uprising. Today, these new generation is rising against the Israeli forces on their own, and do not receive their orders from any political party or any leader.
This new revolution where political leaders are not the main drivers of protests, contrary to social media, are very much akin to the Arab Spring revolution, such as those in Tunisia and Egypt.
However, it would be wrong to say that the current uprising is being led through social media. Social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter are actually the main means to mobilize and push into action young people, as most events are prepared and called upon through social communication channels on the internet and not anymore through traditional political parties. The absence of any leadership in charge, whether it is on the field or on the social media clearly shows that the political parties don’t have any actual control on the new events and clearly don’t have any ability to stimulate them.
There are in fact clear similarities between the Palestinian uprising and the Arab Spring in terms of using the social media to collect support and the absence of anyone leading the movement.
However, there is a major difference that needs to be pointed out. The Arab Spring revolutions were against the different Arab regimes and their internal despotic structures, while the Palestinian uprising is against an occupation force. The fact that the Palestinians are rebelling against a well-structured foreign military force, makes the task more difficult, because the soldiers composing the Israeli Army, unlike the Egyptian or Tunisian Army, have no connection whatsoever to the Palestinian population and cannot be influenced as the Egyptian soldiers were. This makes it more difficult for the Palestinians, especially given the harsh punishment measures set by the Israel forces such as preventive arrests, or house demolition.
Social media and free communication on the internet at large have raised a new sense of awareness among young people, pushing them to adopt a new rhetoric of patriotism, not connected to any faction or partisan affiliations. In an Oct. 19 post on his now-deleted Facebook account, Ahmed al-Herbawi, 19, who died on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip after taking a bullet in the chest, wrote, “I do not stand with the Ramallah authority, nor with Hamas, the party of hypocrisy, injustice and lies.”
The fact that no Palestinian political parties have officially claimed the leadership of the current uprising is a clear proof that young Palestinians are its lifeblood. This young generation is actually generating quietly but surely a local Arab Spring, making it work in Palestine, whether in the field or online. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly strongly condemned the social networks such as Facebook, for instigating and igniting escalation in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He even declared recently in one of his speeches that “the main battle should be focused against the instigations in social media networks”.
The success of the this silent revolution might reside in the ambiguous aspect and the secret identity of the people behind, which makes it very popular among the young Palestinians, and worry the Palestinian Authority Security Services that seem to have no control on the situation. Young Palestinians are the clear leaders of these spontaneous outbursts of protests, and are for the first time in Palestinian history, working under the banner of one national flag rather than the banner of one party. Young Palestinians have gone beyond the different factions, acting on their own without any directives, as the Palestinians factions have proved in the past years unable to bring any positive changes for the population.
Bahaa Alian, 22, who died attacking Israelis on a Jerusalem bus on Oct. 13, was a living example of the will of the young people to distance themselves from the banners of the political parties. “I ask the different factions not to embrace and adopt my martyrdom, as I died for the sake of my homeland, not yours,” he said 10 months before he carried out his attack.
A statistical study published Nov. 9 by the Jerusalem Center for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Studies showed that among the overall attacks carried out by Palestinians since the beginning of October, lone operations amount to 60%, 22% had organizational connections and 18% were affiliated with groups — which does not mean that the organizations or groups claimed the attacks, clarified the study.
A Jerusalem teenager declared to a local Newspaper that “despair is the main thing pushing young Palestinians to rise up. “We are the generation of disappointments and losses. We have lived through the recent wars, blockade, infighting, the failed Palestinian reconciliation and peace process, and the false promises to open crossings and improve the situation,”
The tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem are reaching a peak, but Palestinians seem reluctant to call this revolution the “Palestinian Arab Spring” because the Arab Spring revolutions brought nothing but disasters to the Arab World (Libya and Syria are now in the midst of a Civil War, while Tunisia and Egypt are now struggling with Salafis/Jihadist groups). That is one of the reasons most of the young Palestinians prefer to give it another name, more positive one.
David Allouche is the founder of the think-tank “Young Diplomats”. He holds an MA in Government, Strategy and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University

Bangladesh Swings On A Pendulum

Bangladesh Swings On A Pendulum

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Dec 30, 2015
While an uneasy calm may have descended on Bangladesh lately, it is not certain that such a scenario will be everlasting.  The country swings between supporters of the two principal figures in Bangladesh politics: the strong willed Sheikh Hasina and the equally stubborn Begum Khaleda Zia. Their political differences have polarized the country along party lines.
To some observers, the Sheikh Hasina government is trying to pursue a course of secular democracy.  In the process, it has also demanded and enforced strict punishment including the death penalty for those nationals deemed traitors during the Bangladeshi war of liberation.  Several suspected collaborators have so far been convicted and sentenced to death. In protests over the trials between the government and opposition forces, there have been hundreds of deaths.
Khaleda Zia’s supporters on the other hand object to the need to bring individuals to trial, charging that such steps are a witch-hunt against any opposition figure brave enough to criticize the government’s policies, and demanding that the government cease its unrelenting crackdown on religious figures and parties as well.  Her party is also seen as lending moral support to opposition figures who have mustered enough forces on the street to form a formidable opposition.
Khaleda Zia’s party has been accused of discreetly fostering the Hefajat-e-Islam party.  In recent years, hundreds of thousands of their supporters blocked highways and fought in violent battles with the police, bringing the capital city of Dhaka to a standstill as they demanded an anti-blasphemy law that would carry the death penalty for the guilty.  In the process of the bloody confrontation, many died and hundreds were injured in the Bangladeshi capital.
The Hefajat-e-Islam party also mobilized an estimated 200,000 supporters onto the streets of the capital protesting their demands.  Rioting erupted after police tried to block protesters from gathering in front of the country’s largest mosque. The protesters were streaming into Dhaka from remote villages, and when news of the confrontation broke out, trouble then spread to other districts of Dhaka.
The Hefajat-e-Islam party, whose battle cry during this confrontation was “One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged,” trudged along six major highways, blocking all transport between Dhaka and other cities.  One leader of a group of protesters chanted: “This government does not have faith in Allah. This is an atheist government; we will not allow them to live in Bangladesh. Muslims are brothers, we must protect Islam.”
Another demanded the strict implementation of Shariah laws in a country were the government is seen as sliding away from religious boundaries. This is not the first time that this group has demonstrated forcibly on the capital’s streets.  Similar demands included a call for an anti-blasphemy law, which the government rebuffed by stating that  such a law was already on the books and needed no further revision.
The Hefajat-e-Islam party has introduced 13 demands, which also include a ban on the free mingling of men and women and the restoration of pledges to Allah in the constitution.  Those who oppose their calls fear that such demands would mean the Talibanization of their country. Those most vocal were female workers in the garment industry, a key source of foreign exchange in the country, who fear that such laws may mean the loss of jobs.
It is a difficult call for Bangladeshis today, divided as they remain. However, if there is any consolation, one must look at other countries for examples of the road ahead.  In most countries where Islamic Shariah was brutally implemented, the populace suffered under the manipulations of political radicalization covertly disguised under the banner of Islam.
It has happened before in Afghanistan, Nigeria and in Pakistan.  Shariah laws were usually a cover for unfettered government corruption and control.  Those who dared speak out were often imprisoned on religious grounds and had their rights denied.  Corruption and disregard for human rights flourished; the exact opposite of what Shariah laws intended! Such is not the way of Islam.  Muslim dominated countries facing internal maladies often spring such laws on their people in the hope of diverting their attention from real problems.  In the process, the rights of citizens are crushed and strewn on the roadway, all in the name of Islam.  Immoral as it is, it has happened before and will continue.
The politicization of our religion has become an everyday trend.  And it is not restricted to governments.  Terror groups such as Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) or Al-Qaeda all chant verses from the Holy Qur’an while they go about their murderous missions.  The powers behind such mobs usually have the virtues of Islam as the last thing on their minds.

Islam As Partisan Profit: An Egyptian Epic

Islam As Partisan Profit: An Egyptian Epic

By H A Hellyer
29 Dec 2015
When the Egyptian uprising broke out in 2011, the opponents of Hosni Mubarak consisted of many different groups and trends.
Within a few months, the "divorce" between the revolutionary camp and the Muslim Brotherhood-led faction began. At the heart of their separation, and the split between revolutionaries and the Mubarak regime, was how religion - specifically, Islam - was used in public life.
Five years later, the instrumentalisation of Islam for partisan gain is a shortcoming that blemishes both pro-Mohamed Morsi and pro-Abdel Fattah el-Sisi forces in Egypt today. It isn't a fault that only one side falls into on a regular basis - and consistency in criticising that flaw remains rather elusive.
A political tool
From early on, supporters of the Brotherhood and different Salafi groups utilised religion as a political tool - using it to encourage Egyptians to vote "yes", for example, in the first referendum in support of the military's road-map in 2011.
From 2011 onwards there was a flourishing of Islamist TV channels - many of which provided platforms for incitement against Coptic Christians, as well as other Muslims.
During Morsi's tenure as president, these channels prospered further - and Morsi himself attended a rally at which incitement against Shia Muslims was pronounced. A few days later, Shia Egyptians were lynched in Giza. Following the military's removal of Morsi, pro-Morsi partisans continued, and continue to use religion to agitate.
As the rise of Islamist parties ensued between post-2011, their adversaries, including those who opposed Mubarak and the military, called them out. Such opponents weren't necessarily French-style secularists, who were generally ambivalent about religion but decried the Brotherhood's tactics as evidence that they were "tuggar al-deen" (traders of religion).
Nevertheless, such partisan usage of religion is hardly a flaw unique to the Morsi camp. Indeed, the Morsi camp had access to parts of Egyptian state power for a limited amount of time, while their opponents have had, and have more access for a longer period of time.
Pro-state forces, particularly from 2013, have also pushed forward the instrumentalisation of religion, albeit differently.
Egypt is host to the Azhar University and al-Azhar Mosque, the most notable educational establishment in Sunni Islam. The Azharis claim to be rooted in normative Sunnism - something shared with the Tunisian mosque of the Kairouan, or the Moroccan Qarawiyyin, as well as the Nahdhat-ul-Ulama in Indonesia.
But for much of the 20th century, quality control deteriorated, leading the institution to mislay its connection to its past. In politics, the rarity of the institution to speak "truth to power" has lessened its impact, as Nathan Brown, a professor at the George Washington University, in Washington DC, and I recently critiqued in Foreign Affairs.
The attempt to use the Azhar in the "war of ideas" against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is handicapped by the lack of credibility the institution has with the target audience, as I noted recently, as it is viewed as aligning itself along state powers.
Losing credibility
In the weeks following the deposing of Morsi, the security forces used excessive force, the most serious example of which was the forced dispersion of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in August 2013.
Around 1,000 people were killed in what was described by rights groups as "probably a crime against humanity". While the military's supporters in Egypt probably considerably outnumbered the Brotherhood's, it would have given the Azhari establishment a certain standing and ability to mediate between opposing factions if it had sought a more neutral stance.
The response of the official Azhari religious establishment, however, had been to fully endorse the military's deposing of Morsi, without continuing to call the authorities to account for abuses carried out thereafter.
Latter descriptions of the then defence minister as similar to a Prophet provoked censure even from other pro-state Azhari scholars. In the West, the Egyptian president is sometimes portrayed as a reformer of Islam, though it is unclear how he is going to fulfil that role with a rights record that is so harshly criticised by rights groups in and out of Egypt.
Other opponents of the Brotherhood camp continue to also utilise religion to bolster their political stances, including in the administration of religious affairs, as the Brotherhood attempted.
Preachers used their positions to support anti-Islamist candidates for the presidency in 2012 - as others did to support pro-Islamist candidates. Both pro- and anti-Islamist figures have invoked dreams as evidence of divine inspiration - as though God is on their "side" rather than on anyone else's.
Ironically, critics of this parochial use of religion more often voice criticism of one camp, or the other. Seldom are objections of the phenomenon itself made - that while religion can inspire people to do wonderful things, it ought not to be used for partisan, venal political gain, irrespective of the culprit.
But, this is Egypt. All too often, a binary myopia infests the discussion - where one must advocate for one side, at the risk of being accused of backing the other side if support is not exhibited strong enough.
The choice of maintaining the right - even the duty - to criticise any and all Egyptians for the abuses they carry out, regardless of partisanship, is rare indeed - and often carries its own perils.
Yet, non-partisanship in scholarly criticism remains a goal worth striving for. One Egyptian religious authority, Sheikh Emad Effat, who was called "sheikh of the revolution" in the aftermath of his death at the hands of state forces in 2011, and who was critical of both Islamist parties and the then military authorities, expressed this sentiment best when he wrote:
"Sheikhs of Al-Azhar used to leave their resignations in the drawers of their secretaries and told them: if you see us submitting to pressure then hand over the resignation to the press. When they are honest to God, He makes them victorious and cherishes them."
Consistency is a rare trait when it comes to analysing the Egyptian context - but scholars, whether religious authorities or not, would fulfil a great role if they would exhibit that kind of evenness.
Principles can only be called as such when they are upheld irrespective of who they assist - otherwise, they're just slogans.
H A Hellyer is a senior nonresident fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, and associate fellow in International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Source: Al-Jazeera

Is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Phenomena A New Fitna (Mischief)? Self-Righteous Kashmiri Sectarian Ulema Confer At A Book Release Function

Is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Phenomena A New Fitna (Mischief)? Self-Righteous Kashmiri Sectarian Ulema Confer At A Book Release Function

Is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Phenomena A New Fitna (Mischief)? Self-Righteous Kashmiri Sectarian Ulema Confer At A Book Release Function
By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam
29 Dec 2015

Srinagar: Recently a book release function was held in Kashmir Valley in which a book Fikr e Ghamidi: Ek Tajziyati wa Tahkeeki Mutala (The Weltanschauung of Ghamidi: An Analytical and Researcher’s Reading) written by a Pakistani scholar Hafiz Zubair was released at a local college. The new edition of the book has been published by a local publisher with new additions and revision by the author. The scholars belonging to different schools of thought, organizations and shades of opinion were present on this occasion.

It was a rare event, because most of those present declare each other deviant and prefer not to offer prayers behind or besides each other. But this gathering proved that only reactionary religiosity can bring them together because it was a joint concern as all the interpretations, monopolization over religious knowledge and sectarianism was being challenged, that certainly can lead to their sectarian shops being closed down and they becoming out of fashion. Otherwise no such joint consultation, unity or shared platform can be witnessed for issues of joint concern like ecology, sectarian strife, domestic violence, terrorism, state sponsored terrorism and lack of democracy in the Muslim world.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a Pakistani scholar, living in exile in Malaysia due to the death threats he continues to receive because of his alternative interpretations of Islam or maybe because his critics have failed to answer them, as bullet is the last answer of the person who has lost the argument. Further his interpretations do hurt ‘religious interests’ of many. This article is not written to justify or nullify the religious interpretation of Ghamidi but to defend his right to interpret religion.

Every speaker at the event in his speech exposed himself about their secondary source reading about Ghamidi as their speeches were a testimony that they were not acquainted with the primary sources i.e. writings and speeches of Ghamidi. Further belittling Ghamidi by stating that he is not well versed in religious sciences and has not read in a madrasa was a lame criticism because many stalwarts of Islamic Revivalist movements like Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi, Hassan al Banna, Syed Qutb, Dr Ali Shariti and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan none has studied formally and completely in madrasas, but none doubts their Islamic credentials and contribution.

Plus all the speakers missed this important fact that religion does not evolve, reveal or function in void but the context, socio-economic system and historical facts cannot be ignored because religion has to interact with them. The historical development of Shariah and its niceties had been oblivious to these speakers. How only the six books of Hadith were declared authentic while more than forty collections of hadith were existing? Why the Shias have different Hadithcollections than Sunnis? Who defined the fundamentals of Quran, Hadith, Jurisprudence, Exegesis etc and if they are not divine and prophetic in nature, then to differ or reject them does not lead any scholar to be labeled as deviant!

Similarly the evolution of Juristic schools of thought also owes their development to various factors including political ones. To hold few things authentic and other un-Islamic depicts arrogance and sectarian mind-set that Islam aims to nullify. If Ghamidi has different fundamentals than other scholars who are supposed to be ‘mainstream’ and ‘authentic’ ones then he cannot be labelled as wrong, deviant or rejecter of Hadith.

One Salafi scholar, who are always self-righteous in their interpretation of Islam, was demanding that Ghamidi be labelled as Kaafir, for his ‘erroneous’ interpretation, that goes against Salafi one, that is responsible for tearing down the unity of Ummah by constructing new mosques with Wahhabi funded petro dollar money in every nook and cranny as they uphold the doctrine that prayer behind every Imam is null and void except the Salafi one. Then he exposed his lack of understanding and poor reading when he described that Ghamidi has written nothing on politics and upholds the doctrine that Islam has nothing to do with politics. If he would just have read the contents page of Gahmidi’s book Meezanhe would have found the chapter on Fundamentals of Politics in Islam. Further he alleged that Ghamidi allows homosexuality, whereas in reality he describes it against nature and institution of family, though ignoring the fact that there now is a whole body of literature about Homosexuality in Islam, with scholars like Imam Dayee Abdullah, Prof. Scott Siraj ul Haq Ougle, Amina Wadud engaging with this question and certainly like Islamophobia needs to be resisted in the West, Muslim societies need to overcome Homophobia.

Then among the enlightened ones, the upholders of banner of Islamic Revivalism who label themselves as non-sectarian, a representative of Jamaat e Islami (JeI) Kashmir, to secure points over others described Ghamidi as an agent of West who is sponsored to create confusion among Muslim Ummah and who has been successful in creating an audience among the Muslim intellectuals and youth, thus self-concluding that JeI has failed to address to this section. In a further digression from the Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi’s plural and democratic nature and stance he out rightly labeled Ghamidi as a Non-Muslim whose works should be rejected, thus testifying the fact that after the death of Mawlana Mawdudi, Jamaat members continued to write but stopped thinking and pondering.

Then other speakers started describing him as a Neo Mutazalite, being similar in many ways to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, while others upheld that he was Ghulam Ahmad Parvez reborn, while for others his thought was similar to Rashid Shaz and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, who have been labeled as deviated by all these ‘self-righteous’ sectarian scholars. The reality is that it is very unprofessional, unethical and unscholarly to paint all these scholars with similar brush, we can have our own reservations with all of them but it is unjustified to invoke a blanket ban on all of them.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is one of the few sane scholars of Islam who calls for moderation, tolerance, pluralism and core values of Islam. He enjoys mass appeal among youth, as he can communicate to them unlike the traditional sectarian scholars and mullahs. He needs to be listened and appreciated for articulating a moderate, tolerant and inclusive interpretation of Islam. The attempts of low rung mullahs and sectarian scholars who enjoy little appeal among masses will in no way hamper the mission of Ghamidi, but it certainly points out a disturbing trend in Valley where pluralism of interpretation of religion is being curtailed through Unitarian efforts of sectarian censorship. This needs to be discouraged at every level because Muslims are not a monolith and in our tradition of Islam and Rishism, dissenting, alternative voices have never been curtailed by demeaning, labelling and branding them as conspiracy against Islam.

M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached