Archive for the ‘islam’ tag
At least for American Muslims, I think there’s a reasonable argument for calling “jihad” a curse word in the “nigger” sense. That’s one of the salient points made in this quite good (and rather long) profile of Yasir Qadhi, a rather popular conservative cleric.
I’m a little behind, but though this story doesn’t directly address Mubarak’s fall in Egypt (published at the end of January, it couldn’t), it’s the most interesting thing I’ve seen about it. David Mendicoff argues that America’s fetishizing of secularism in Middle Eastern leaders is probably hurting our desire for both stability and liberalization.
Survey research in the Arab world, such as the University of Michigan’s Arab Barometer project, has found that respondents generally consider themselves Muslims above other markers of identity, including national citizenship. As a result, Islam isn’t just a feature of a national government; for many citizens, it may be as important as the idea of the nation itself. By forcing Islam out of state politics, as Tunisia did, the government can actually reduce its own legitimacy in the eyes of the people, leaving it vulnerable and forcing it to lean more heavily on the machinery of a police state.
EDIT (2/19/11): An slightly different take can be found in the New Statesman.
It feels a little silly, but I’d never thought much about the similarity between the current heat surrounding images of Muhammad and the idol breaking that played a role both in the “Great schism” and reformation. The logic of the offended believers is similar:
“The prohibition is intended to protect the faithful from that sin [of polytheism]. The fear was that intense reverence for the prophet might if unrestrained cross over into worship. In the 8th and the 9th centuries a general consensus banning such depictions arose among the clerics, but not all Muslims knew of it, paid attention, or obeyed.”
This image — presented excellently by Mr. Kleon — from Colin Powell’s appearance on Meet the Press made me cry:
Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn’t have a Christian cross. It didn’t have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.
And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life.
According to Slate’s Explainer, most African-American Muslims — who actually identify as one or the other — are Sunnis.
A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center found that among the several million Muslims in America, 20 percent are native-born African-Americans. Among those black Muslims, half identified themselves as Sunni—as Ellison does—and another third said they had no affiliation. There are a handful of predominantly black Shiite mosques in the United States, though they represent a small minority of all black Muslims.
Remember that hubbub about how radical Islam was fracturing? Count The Economist as a doubter:
There is no denying that al-Qaeda has damaged its own cause by killing so many Muslims. That is why even Sunni Arabs in Iraq have for now joined the American side. A report from Simon Fraser University in Canada notes an extraordinary drop in support for terrorist groups in the Muslim world.
And yet the impact of this on global terrorism may, alas, be small. Al-Qaeda has compensated for its strategic setback in Iraq by creating a sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan. As for its ideological problems, these may well be outweighed by the continuing current of anti-Americanism in the Islamic world. Besides, the organisation has a simple remedy. It just needs to kill more Westerners and fewer Muslims. For this it does not have to attract millions of people to its cause: a small number of disaffected souls in the right places is all it takes.
In an idea that you’ll probably either welcome or condemn, 12 countries have hosted programs that allow citizens to rent a Muslim, an immigrant, or an Indian atheist. You know, for forced housework cultural interaction and stuff. An interesting detail:
The types of ‘book’ engaged vary from country to country. And the response from the public can be instructive. In Britain, for example, the Muslim and the ex-gang member are popular. In Hungary, it was the neo-Nazi, says Abergel. In some countries, homosexual ‘books’ are popular, but less so in a place like Britain, “because here you’re more liberal and used to it.”
Why refrain from calling terrorists jihadis?
First, to call a terrorist a “jihadist” or “jihadi” effectively puts any campaign against terrorism into the framework of an existential battle between the West and Islam. This feeds into the worldview propagated by Al Qaeda. It also serves to isolate the tens of millions of Muslims who condemn the violence that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam.
Second, these words locate the ideological battle exactly where the extremists want it to be. The terms of discussion are no longer about the murder of innocents in terrorist acts; they are about theology.
Third, when American leaders use this language it sends a confusing message to the Muslim world, showing ignorance on basic issues and possibly even raising doubts about American motives. Why, after all, would we call our enemy a “holy warrior”?
The Reformed Jihadis
When two publications simultaneously carry what is essentially the same — rather long — story, it’s got to be worth noting.
- In The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright has an exhaustive — 14 internet pages — profile of “Dr. Fadl”, who recently published a book admonishing Al Qaeda for it’s tactics.
- The New Republic’s (slightly) briefer article sees a trend of people like Dr. Fadl, who dissent from Al Qaeda’s tactics even if they share some of their aims.
The essential point of both, as stated in TNR:
Although Benotman’s public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda’s leaders, and who — alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda’s barbaric tactics in Iraq — have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.
Malise Ruthven has an interesting review of the theories about what makes people become Islamic terrorists. One theory:
Sageman pays close attention to family networks, with about one fifth of his sample having close family ties with other global Islamic activists. His point is strongly reinforced by Bilveer Singh in The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, his study of jihadist groups in Southeast Asia. Singh sees kinship as being a vital element in the makeup of al-Jamaat al-Islamiyah—the organization responsible for the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002. The people who form terror groups have to know and trust one another. In most Muslim societies it is kinship, rather than shared ideological values, that generates relations of trust.
The CS Monitor reports on a debate in Qatar that made this oft ignored point:
“The media listens to people on [the far] sides of the equation,” he says.
The repeated airing of such extremist opinions has helped mold Western attitudes about Islam that, Hellyer argues, are a distortion of the reality.
It is a sentiment shared by Qazwini, who argues that there is no conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, only between extremist Sunnis and Shiites “who represent 1 percent of Muslims at best.”
As you probably know, one of the five pillars of Islam is the Hajj, or pilgramage to Mecca. As Ray Fisman explains, an interesting study has found that the experience makes pilgrams more moderate than those who haven’t gotten to go.
But the changes from the Hajj experience transcended mere shifts in religious observance, inspiring many pilgrims with newfound feelings of tolerance. While in Mecca, Hajjis can’t help but rub shoulders with Muslims of every shape and size. Sunni and Shiite, African and Pakistani, all live and pray together as a single congregation of millions. This intermixing of peoples in Mecca seems to have caused the Pakistani Hajjis to express more tolerant views of other Muslims. Just over half of the Pakistanis who didn’t go on the Hajj told the survey team that they had a positive view of other Muslim countries. This figure jumped to nearly 70 percent among Hajj survey respondents.
Even more surprising, Hajjis were 25 percent less likely to believe that it was impossible for Muslims of different ethnicities or sects to live together in harmony—a finding that would seem to be of particular interest for those trying to bring peace to the streets of Baghdad. This greater sense of goodwill among peoples even extended to non-Muslims (who were obviously not represented in Mecca). Hajjis were more likely than non-Hajjis to hold the opinion that people of all religions can live in harmony. Hajjis were also less likely to feel that extreme methods—such as suicide bombings or attacks on civilians—could be justified in dealing with disagreements between Muslims and non-Muslims.
I thought this was interesting:
In contrast to the conventional wisdom that Iranian bloggers are mainly young democrats critical of the regime, we found a wide range of opinions representing religious conservative points of view as well as secular and reform-minded ones, and topics ranging from politics and human rights to poetry, religion, and pop culture.
Our research indicates that the Persian blogosphere is indeed a large discussion space of approximately 60,000 routinely updated blogs featuring a rich and varied mix of bloggers. Social network analysis reveals the Iranian blogosphere to be dominated by four major network formations, or poles, with identifiable sub-clusters of bloggers within those poles.
We label the poles as 1) Secular/Reformist, 2) Conservative/Religious, 3) Persian Poetry and Literature, and 4) Mixed Networks. (View the full map.) The secular/reformist pole contains both expatriates and Iranians involved in a dialog about Iranian politics, among many other issues. The conservative/religious pole contains three distinct sub-clusters, two focused principally on religious issues and one on politics and current affairs.
(via Andrew Sullivan)
Daniel Miessler’s mildly arrogant “What Every American Should Know About the Middle East” got a lot of attention recently. Sounding more intellectual but covering roughly the same ground, John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed make this point:
What about Muslim sympathy for terrorism? Many charge that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths, but studies show that Muslims around the world are at least as likely as Americans to condemn attacks on civilians. Polls show that 6% of the American public thinks attacks in which civilians are targets are “completely justified.” In Saudi Arabia, this figure is 4%. In Lebanon and Iran, it’s 2%.
In case you hadn’t heard, Turkey’s ruling party is being taken to court in the hopes of making it illegal. This struck me as both odd and blatantly partisan, but Anne Applebaum offers some relatively reasonable explanations for why it may not be.
Fairly or not, in certain Turkish communities, a head covering in fact marks the wearer not just as faithful but as a believer in a particular version of Islam. Fairly or not, the head scarf carries with it, at least in Turkey, partisan connotations, as well as a suggestion of the wearer’s views of women. Political scientist Zeyno Baran pointed out to me that most of the wives of the current Turkish political leadership wear head scarves, that most of them donned the scarves after their marriages, and that most of them never worked or studied again after they wed. You can see why women who want something different might feel threatened.
In fact, the Turkish ban was first instituted in the 1980s precisely to protect these bareheaded women, as well as the secular students who wanted to remain so. For 20 years or so, the ban was relatively successful. After a few initial protests, it was widely accepted—how else can a deeply divided society survive, unless it creates zones of neutrality?—at least until the current government tried to get rid of it again this year.
Though it’s still completely impossible to call Saudi Arabia a friend of human rights, and though it’s moving at a snail’s pace, the Christian Science Monitor says that some have found reason to hope.
…another sign of what some Saudis describe as an expanding awareness of human rights among the public and government officials. They cite increased discussion in the media and private blogs of such issues as child marriage, domestic violence, and treatment of foreign laborers.
“The big achievement is that it’s no longer taboo to talk about human rights,” one Saudi says privately.
Speaking of the rule of law… Noah Feldman says that much of the appeal of Shariah in Muslim countries is based on the idea that it offers justice for all.
The upshot is that the system of Islamic law as it came to exist allowed a great deal of leeway. That is why today’s advocates of Shariah as the source of law are not actually recommending the adoption of a comprehensive legal code derived from or dictated by Shariah — because nothing so comprehensive has ever existed in Islamic history. To the Islamist politicians who advocate it or for the public that supports it, Shariah generally means something else. It means establishing a legal system in which God’s law sets the ground rules, authorizing and validating everyday laws passed by an elected legislature. In other words, for them, Shariah is expected to function as something like a modern constitution.
Turkey’s recent easing of its headscarf ban has raised roughly equal amounts of praise and concern. The Economist asks why the government is lifting it at all.
Some believe they were designed merely to win votes in the local elections due next year. If the AK were serious about bolstering equality between the sexes, “there would be more than one woman in the cabinet,” says one AK-supporting lady. And if letting women cover their heads were a matter of rights, as Mr Erdogan claims, why has the government not scrapped Article 301 of the penal code, which criminalises free speech?