On how Muslims can offer the world their best qualities

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“ My existential crisis as a Muslim man haunts me to the core of my being. Amid the horrendous nihilism of Isis, the dull orthodoxy of self-proclaimed custodians of Islam and the culture of fear in the west which sees everything Muslim as pure evil, I seek an answer to a simple and unasked question: how does it feel to be Muslim today? Instead, you ask me to denounce – even apologize for – the horrors of Manchester, Nice, Orlando, Paris and Berlin, as if I were a silent accomplice cheering softly behind the garb of my faith. You mistake my silence for duplicity, my shock for deceit, and my choking inability to comprehend for disloyalty. But have you asked me how I feel instead of how you feel about me? (…) How can we reconcile the anarchic savagery of our worst Muslims today with the humanist generosity of our best Muslims of yesterday? What have we to offer the world today? (…) My aim here is not to disparage a civilization, but to diagnose its current malaise, one that inflicts Muslims today and prevents them from thinking themselves into the world, not because they are incapable of doing it, but because of a coordinated campaign to deny them the right to do it. Like many Muslims, I feel the weight of this tension everyday because the distance between our religious leaders and the world in which we live is a gaping hole. The biggest orchestrator of this campaign is not Isis. That is only one of its sad manifestations. It is Saudi Arabia and its rampant Wahhabi religiosity which cripples everything Muslim today. Its literalist theology is suffocating and has no place in the modern world. How can we tolerate a religious system which still flogs its people in public squares, denies its women basic rights like driving and looking out windows and criminalizes any form of dissent? Weighty words fit for a colossal peril that is Saudi Arabia ”

Nabil Echchaibi, ‘Muslims today face a deep malaise. We must confront it’, The Guardian

 

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On sectarian war and its consequences in Iraq

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“ Furthermore, since the Mosul offensive started, terrorist attacks on Baghdad and other cities have increased. They could intensify even more if ISIS is defeated. Both Iraqi officials and the United States describe the battle to liberate Mosul as part of a war on terror. But as long as sectarian conflict persists, even the defeat of ISIS will not guarantee peace and security. At stake is not just religious ideology, but a war over who controls the Iraqi state, which determines who controls the nation’s essential oil revenues (…)  Sectarianism gave the Shia a powerful justification for taking control of Iraq’s political and economic structures, making a fair distribution of power impossible. The struggle over state resources has been waged under sectarian slogans, so we can’t assume that this discourse will vanish with ISIS. Sectarianism provides groups with legitimacy to represent their communities and grants them an effective tool for mobilizing their constituents. While both Islamic Shia political groups and Sunnis have adopted cross-sectarian discourse over the last few months, we should not take this change seriously. Why would Shia parties depart from their sectarian platform after liberating Mosul from ISIS? Corruption also makes finding a solution among these sectarian groups difficult. In a state with no rule of law, those who have access to the state’s resources have no motivation to give up their share. The post-ISIS era remains uncertain, but the institutionalization of sectarianism and corruption will make fertile ground for more violent conflicts. The Iraqi people must not only push for a civilian state, but also demand a secular state as a precondition for ending the war based on religious and sectarian identities ”

Janan Aljabiri, ‘Winner Take All’, Jacobin Magazine

On the western conviction that Muslim women are all victims of sexism

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“ Commonplace is the firm conviction that sexism against Muslim women is rife, most often coupled with the utter disbelief that women who challenge sexism could exist, let alone that there are many of them, that they are not a new phenomenon, and that Muslim men often support them in their efforts (…) The assumption is that Muslim women need to be extricated from the religion entirely before anything close to liberation or equality can be achieved (…) It is as though male Muslim scholars and non-Muslim western feminists have handed down predetermined scripts for us to live by. And it is left to those people thought not to exist — Muslim women who fight sexism — to rewrite those scenarios and reclaim our identities ”

Susan Carland, ‘If you want to know about Muslim women’s rights, ask Muslim women’, The Guardian

On why the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia shows the cruelty of the Putin regime

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“ All authoritarian regimes loathe minority religions, perhaps because religious groupings are one of the most powerful ways of imagining a world that might be different. Tolerance is a late and perhaps unnatural development in human history but that only increases its value. Freedom of religion means freedom to be wrong or it means nothing at all. And in the case of the Witnesses, with their astonishing stubborn patience in the face persecution, we can see how the content of their beliefs really doesn’t and shouldn’t affect their right to hold them. At a time when most of the concern about Putin’s Russia is concentrated on its behaviour abroad, the attempted suppression of the Witnesses shows just how much damage he can do within his own borders ”

Andrew Brown, ‘Why Putin’s persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses should worry us’, The Guardian

On how secularism is misinterpreted

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” I want to live in a secular society. I believe that law and justice in this country should be removed from religious influence; but also that individuals should be free to practise their faith insofar as it doesn’t impact on those around them. That does not mean being forced to succumb to the intolerance of those who are offended by the sight of a headscarf ”

Iman Amrani, ‘The hijab ban is a ban on Muslim women’, The Guardian

On Islam’s criticism and reformation

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” …to be critical… is one thing. To reduce them to something which is violent extremism, and to acknowledge and to accept the rhetoric of the Egyptian president Sisi and before him Mubarak: that’s not going to help any country. Because these people (the Muslim Brotherhood), you challenge them with democracy and with arguments, not with repression and torture (…) Islam doesn’t need a reformation, but Muslims need to reform their minds, their interpretations of Islam, which is not exactly the same as what you went through because we don’t have a church ”

David Shariatmadari, ‘Tariq Ramadan: Muslims need to reform their minds’, The Guardian

On religion and faith

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“ Considering the role that religion so often plays in fueling conflicts abroad and inspiring bigotry at home, it is not always so easy to defend the value of religion in society. And, in a world in which reason and religion seem to be moving further apart, it is certainly understandable why so many people view religious faith as the hallmark of an irrational mind (…) …in the end, faith is nothing more or less than a choice. You either believe there is something beyond the physical world, or you don’t. You either believe you are more than the sum of your material parts, or you don’t. You either believe in the existence of a soul, or you don’t (…) Beyond the doctrines and the dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings  ”

Reza Aslan, ‘Why I am a Muslim’, CNN