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Negotiating Freedom of Expression

The unresolved debate on freedom of expression was reignited when Islamic militants killed 14 staffers of French magazine Charlie Hebdo last January, ostensibly for the cartoons that offended Muslim sentiments. Earlier this year, two secular bloggers were hacked to death in Bangladesh. In other countries such as Russia and Iran, writers and journalists languish in […]

‘Europe faces a huge challenge in dealing with its Muslim citizens’

I talked to Akbar S. Ahmed  about the perception of Islam and Muslims in the West

 

MannequinsMannequins dressed in brightly coloured headscarves at a shop in Cite, France

Raza Rumi: With the rise of ISIS, a global debate has ensued about Islam and its followers. ISIS adherents term their acts in sync with Sharia. What are your views on ISIS and its ideology?

Akbar S. Ahmed: Let me make some generalizations here based in research and reflection. ISIS can only be understood in the context of the collapse of relations between tribes and central governments and the implosion of tribal society. I go into this process in detail in my book The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a War on Tribal Islam in which I examine 40 case studies in detail across the Muslim world. In Pakistan we have seen something like ISIS with the emergence of the TTP, in West Africa with Boko Haram and Al Shabab in East Africa. Muslim tribes typically live by a code of behavior that emphasizes honor, hospitality, courage and especially revenge. This code has provided a kind of stability for centuries despite the fact that certain aspects of it such as taking revenge are against Islam. Yet after independence these tribes were integrated into modern states and the relationship between them and central governments has often been tumultuous. Today, in a trend seen especially since 9/11, Muslim tribal society is in chaos and the code of revenge especially is completely out of control. Support for ISIS comes from tribal groups in both Syria and Iraq who have been oppressed both by central governments in Damascus and Baghdad. There is nothing Islamic about what they are doing, but their actions can be explained through the mutation of the code of revenge. When they kill western hostages, for example, they say explicitly this is to take revenge for airstrikes. Similarly, the TTP has taken similar action against Pakistani soldiers in revenge, they say, for drone strikes. There has been simply too much suffering in these societies as ordinary people are confronted with airstrikes, drones, suicide bombers, and tribal feuds. In order to remedy the situation and bring stability and peace, we must all have a clear idea what is going wrong. We must not confuse the minority of militants with the larger tribal society from which they come—as has too frequently been done. We must work toward a situation where the tribal people of Muslim countries feel they are treated as full citizens of the state with respect for their human rights and opportunities for economic development. It is only then that the violent forces in these societies will be effectively checked.

[…]

Understanding Contemporary Muslimness

A review of Naveeda Khan’s  book Muslim Becoming published in “The Book Review

I wanted to learn what it meant to know Islam in Pakistan and why this knowing was so easily brushed  aside.

It is a welcome addition to the rather scant literature on  Islam, identity and Muslimness in contemporary Pakistan. Khan begins by presenting a debate between four librarians of differing religious persuasions. Deep within the stacks of the Provincial As- sembly Library, four men take part in a dis- cussion that highlights the marked differ- ences in their belief systems. Of the four, one is a Shia and the other three Sunni. Among the Sunnis, one identifies himself as a Deobandi, one as a follower of Ahl-e-Hadis sect, and the third as a Barelvi. Akbar, the follower of Ahl-e-Hadis school of thought, speaks at length of the superiority of their mosques as ‘they allowed laymen to give ser- mons and encouraged women’s participation in congregational  prayer’. Despite his reverence for mosque culture, Akbar is derisive of the thought of praying at the Prophet’s mosque in Medina.

It  is  commendable to  pray at  the Prophet’s  mosque, but it isn’t  necessary. Some among us have made it into a re- quirement by saying such things as, the Prophet is alive there, he can hear your prayers and he can grant you your wishes. Such claims are bid’a. One cannot pray there until such time as this bid’a has been vanquished… […]

November 1st, 2013|books, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistani Literature|2 Comments

Fascists strike again in Pakistan: Minorities Minister killed

Shahbaz Bhatti (5 February 2010)
Sometimes it feels we are living in stone age where no dissent and no call for a tolerant society is possible. Murder, violence, mayhem are the order of the day. Today, we mourn the death of Shahbaz Bhatti who had been repeatedly threatened, but not intimidated.
It is time for Pakistan’s political parties to take stock of this situation and get their own ideological house in order before they are wiped out as well. Pakistani state organs have been appeasing the Right and Islamofasicsts for too long. It is time to stand up. If they think they can be safe then they ARE WRONG.
PTH condemns this murder and recalls that Pakistan was not created for this violence and bigotry that is now our halmark and has made us a joke in the international community.
Taseer’s murderers have to be booked, Benazir Bhutto’s murderers have to be brought to book and Bhatti’s murder should not go to waste.
Wake up Pakistan and our appeal to Pakistanis: stand up for your rights for living in a secure, tolerant society.
Here is a newsreport from BBC – sad and I hate to post it but then such are the times we live in:

Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, has died after two gunmen opened fire on his car in the capital, Islamabad, hospital officials say. […]
March 2nd, 2011|Pakistan, terrorism|12 Comments

Revisiting the concept of Jihad in Islam

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)*

The word ‘jihad’ is derived from the root juhd, which means ‘to strive’ or ‘to struggle’. It denotes the exertion of oneself to the utmost, to the limits of one’s capacity, in some activity or for some purpose.  This is how the word is understood in Arabic grammar.

Because fighting against one’s enemies is also one form of this exertion or striving, it is also sometimes referred as jihad. However, the actual Arabic word for this is qital, not jihad. Fighting with one’s enemies is something that might happen only occasionally or exceptionally. However, jihad, properly understood, is a continuous action or process that animates every day and night of the life of the true believer. Such a person does not let any hurdle affect his life, including desire for gain, the pressure of customs, the demands of pragmatism, lust for wealth, etc.. All these things serve as hurdles in the path of doing good deeds. Overcoming these hurdles and yet abiding by the commandments of God is the true jihad, and this is the essential meaning of the concept of jihad. There are many references to jihad, as understood in this way, in the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. […]

September 23rd, 2008|India, Islam, Islamophobia, South Asian Literature, Urdu|5 Comments

Muslims feel like Jews of Europe – UK Minister

What an alamring statement coming from a Minister in the UK.

LAHORE: Britain’s first Muslim minister has attacked the growing culture of hostility against Muslims in the UK, saying that many feel targeted like “the Jews of Europe”, The Independent reported on Friday.

Shahid Malik, who was appointed as a minister in the Department for International Development by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last summer, said it has become legitimate to target Muslims in the media and society at large in a way that would be unacceptable for any other minority, according to the British newspaper. […]

July 12th, 2008|Personal|4 Comments

Islamophobia of Muslims

A sad day for Pakistan and progressive Islam. A close associate of Javaid Ghamidi– perhaps the best known Pakistani exponent of enlightened (I hate the word “moderate” – it such a Western construct!) Islam was shot yesterday. It is not just a threat to Ghamidi and his Institute Al-Mawrid but a […]

August 25th, 2006|Islam|0 Comments