Thursday, August 6, 2015

CFR: U.S. Strikes Islamic State Positions From Turkey

U.S. Strikes Islamic State Positions From Turkey
The United States has launched (Reuters) its first air strikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria from Turkey, ahead of what Ankara says will be a comprehensive campaign against the militant group. On Thursday, Islamic State militants captured (AP) a strategic town in Syria's central Homs province after clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States and Russia agreed to back (NYT) a UN draft resolution to identify who used chemical weapons in Syria. Separately, Iran is expected to propose (RFE/RL) a Syrian peace plan to the UN and offered to help mediate the conflict.
"The Obama administration hopes the new military pressure in Syria will convince Assad to accept a political process that would lead to a change of leadership in Syria, if not a full change of regime. With Saudi Arabia and Russia both interested, this diplomatic track shows some promise," writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post.
"If there is a legal basis for which the Obama administration has made this latest policy decision to protect Pentagon-backed rebels from the Assad regime, it has never been stated publicly. Again, the White House or the Pentagon should immediately articulate this legal basis publicly, but given their pattern of behavior we certainly should not expect them to do so," writes CFR's Micah Zenko in a blog post.
"Ankara has established 25 refugee camps, and reports say they are relatively well-run. The problem is the cost—Ankara estimates that it has spent nearly $5.6 billion on refugees since the beginning of the crisis. Combined with its flagging economy, it is not clear how much longer Turkey can continue shouldering the burden. The sooner the fighting in Syria ends, the sooner these refugees can return home," writes Ian Bremmer in TIME

"Unrestrained by time,

baseball encourages, almost requires in its most meaningful moments, an appreciation of living slowly and in the moment; the kind of differentiated experience that separates the sacred in life from the profane. This experience is where religion begins. As Rabbi Heschel wrote, it “is not a feeling for the mystery of living, or a sense of awe, wonder, or fear, which is the root of religion; but rather the question what to do with the feeling for the mystery of living, what to do with awe, wonder, or fear.” In a way, baseball’s window into the nature of religious experience is more revelatory, frankly, than the window offered by much of organized religion. There are difficulties, of course, associated with the word religion— and much evil has come from attempting to take the religious experience and “explain” it— that is, to codify it in dogma. Wars have erupted over that dogma. A lust for power and greed has allowed the sanctification of the material world in God’s name: How high is one’s steeple? How much gold is in one’s chalice? All this for the greater glorification of something that is quite profane— something that can be labeled God but is anything but God in the sense that the greatest thinkers and lovers of religion use the word.
Sexton, John; Oliphant, Thomas; Schwartz, Peter J. (2013-03-07). Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game (p. 219). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  

Imam Zaid Shakir

Mr. Shakir said afterward that he still had trouble believing how a boy from the projects could have become an Islamic scholar with students who are willing to move across the country to study with him. 
He and his wife, Saliha, became Muslims in the Air Force. He had joined the military as a teenager in the lull after Vietnam because his mother had died and he had no means. His name was Ricky Mitchell, and his mother had raised him and his siblings in housing projects in Georgia — where he remembers going to his grandparents' farm and picking cotton — and in New Britain, Conn. 

On Wonder

But does the true sense of wonder really lie in uprooting the mind and plunging it in doubt? Doesn't it really lie in making it possible and indeed necessary to strike yet deeper roots? The sense of wonder certainly deprives the mind of those penultimate certainties that we had up till the taken for granted - and to that extent wonder is a form of disillusionment, though even that has its positive aspect, since it means being freed from an illusion; and it becomes clear that what we had taken for granted was not ultimately self-evident. But further than that, wonder signifies that the world is profounder, more all-embracing and mysterious than the logic of everyday reason had taught us to believe. The innermost meaning of wonder is fulfilled in a deepened sense of mystery. It does not end in doubt, but is the awakening of the knowledge that being, qua being, is mysterious and inconceivable, and that it is a mystery in the full sense of the word: neither a dead end, nor a contradiction, nor even something impenetrable and dark. Rather, mystery means that a reality cannot be comprehended because its light is ever-flowing, unfathomable, and inexhaustible. And that is what the wonderer really experiences. 
-Joseph Piper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, p. 115.

Hiroshima remembers atomic bomb: 'Abolish the evil of nuclear weapons'

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chapel Hill Shootings Articles

*** Must read

JUNE 22, 2015 ISSUE The Story of a Hate Crime What led to the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill? BY MARGARET TALBOT

Slain North Carolina couple and sister remembered as generous, loving By Ashley Fantz, CNN Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT) February 12, 2015

Who Were The Three Young Muslim Students Killed In The UNC Triple Murder? Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammad had gotten married in December. by gil kaufman 2/11/2015

Chapel Hill shooting: Calls for donations in honour of Muslim victims who volunteered for homeless and refugee charities

2015 Chapel Hill shooting

Report: Hundreds of civilians killed in US-led airstrikes on ISIL

Egypt Military Enlists Religion to Quell Ranks (NYT: Aug 25, 2013)

1982 Hama massacre

VIDEO: Chris Hedges, Cornel West on Black Prophetic Tradition

New Texts Out Now: Thomas Pierret, Religion and State in Syria

Number of Syrian Refugees Passes 4 Million (Foreign Policy, June 9, 2015)

The mystical vision of Sayyid Muhammad Mehdi ar-Rawas

Because the Shaykh was an Islamic worker who was in touch with the common folk, he always advised me to return to America to work for Islam. He shared with me the mystical vision of the great Rifa'i scholar, Sayyid Muhammad Mehdi ar-Rawas, who related the following over 200 years ago:

The stupefying illumination of that scene, whose light was revealed to me, and whose veils were drawn back for me, showed me that Allah would bring forth from depths of the unseen, from the overflowing unseen realities involved in that Muhammadaic state, men from whom the blinding luminosity of that [Muhammadaic] state would be removed from their hearts. Thereafter, springs of wisdom will burst forth from their hearts and will flow from the tongues of those men in unperceivable ways. Among them will be those who were the worst of disbelievers yesterday, transformed today into the purest of believers. Allah will surely complete His light. 
It is as if I see this being realized and divine forces are moving forth; unseen secrets are being manifested; tongues are speaking [with unprecedented wisdom]; the mystical secrets proving true; the suns conveying the light of divine aid are burning brightly; the fragrances of prophetic acceptance are diffusing all around. [At that time] a large number of Christians in Western lands, when they are at the peak of their strength and power –a spirit from the proof of the Muhammadaic, prophetic succor will be sent over them- Allah will guide the stray among them, and He will rectify their situation. They will be guided to faith in the pure oneness of God and the message of His Noble, Chosen Prophet, peace upon him. Their numbers will grow. 
This is a sign of Allah that He has concealed in the depths of the unseen as a gift to the trustworthy prophet, as a source of aid to the religion, and as a manifestation of divine care for the Muslims. I continued to see that divine aid extending itself outward, and the fresh water of that sea quenching the thirst of all attaining to it, extending its springs and rivulets to the people. Thus does your Lord say, "[Bringing about such things] is easy for me." A sprinkle from the clouds of His generosity irrigates whole lands. A glance from the eye of His care transforms a bitter enemy of God into a saint. Allah guides with His light whomsoever He pleases.
-Imam Zaid Shakir, "On the Passing of Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani." October 4, 2006

Dr. Tariq Ramadan: Twenty Years Ago (Aug 4, 1995) My Father Left and He is Still Here. Prayers, Your Prayers Please

Tariq Ramadan (official)Yesterday at 7:33am ·

TWENTY YEARS AGO (4th August 1995)... MY FATHER LEFT...
Presence and Silence: a son remembers 
I remember still his presence and his silence. The long silences lodged deep in mind and memory; the thoughts that were often bitter. The keen eye and piercing gaze that bore his warmth, his kindness and his tears; that carried his determination, his commitment and anger as well. How often I attempted, as a child, to read the look in the powerful, suggestive and questioning eyes that accompanied his words to my heart. Those same words awakened me, troubled and shook me. I was not alone. Everyone who met him experienced his power. He had penetrated to the heart of things, and expected others to do the same. And yet he did so with compassion, with intelligence, for he feared causing harm, causing hurt. Behind his hesitancy lay his kindness, and often his awkwardness. 
Early on, I learned at his side how the world feeds on lies, rumors and scandal mongering. When men lose morality they return to the jungle and become wolves. Around him were many such men; men who fought and sullied him for political gain, men who turned their backs on him for professional gain and men who betrayed him for financial gain. So much was said, written and lied about him: that he’d met men whom he’d never seen, heard words that had never been spoken, had been involved in secret plots he never dreamed of. In my memory echo the words of one of his traveling companions: “He could have been a millionaire, not by flattering kings, but by simply agreeing to keep silent. He refused; he spoke the truth and spoke it again and again, before God, without fear of loosing everything.” 
I remember a story that my elder brother Aymen retold what seemed like a thousand times, a story that always brought tears to my eyes. He was fifteen years old when he heard it, in the course of a journey that found him and our father in the presence of wealthy princes: “The money that you wish to give me is placed in the palm of my hand; as for myself, by God’s command, I only work for that which is deposited in and reaches men’s hearts…” Despite his material difficulties, he rejected the exorbitant amounts of money he was offered, and did so in the name of his faith in God, of his devotion to the truth and of his love for justice. Aymen has never forgotten; it shaped him and he passed it on. 
My father learned everything from the man who gave him so much, offered him so much and who, from a very early age, trained and protected him. On that subject he was inexhaustible. Hasan al-Banna, through his total devotion to God and His teachings, brought light to his heart and showed him the way to commitment. To those who criticized al-Banna without ever having met or heard him, or those who had simply read him, my father explained how much spirituality, love, fraternity and humility he had learnt at his side. For hours on end, he could summon up from memory the events and instants that had left their mark on him when he was just like his son; and when he was respectfully known throughout Egypt as “little Hasan al-Banna,” or the “little Guide.” His master’s profound faith, his devotion and his intelligence, his knowledge, open-mindedness and kindness were the qualities that sprang to mind whenever his name was mentioned. 
How often father spoke of his mentor’s unyielding commitment to the struggle against colonialism and injustice and for the sake of Islam. But Hasan al-Banna’s determination never justified violence, which he rejected just as he rejected the idea of “an Islamic revolution.” The only exception was Palestine. Here, al-Banna’s message was clear: armed resistance was the only way to foil the plans of the Irgun terrorists and to confront the Zionist colonizers. Father had learned from Hasan al-Banna, as he put it one day, “to put my forehead to the ground.” For the true meaning of prayer is to give meaning, in humility, to an entire life. At his feet he learned love for God, patience, painstaking work, the value of education and of solidarity. Finally, he learned to give everything. After the assassination of his master, in 1949, he integrated what he had learned and sacrificed everything in order to give voice to the liberating message of Islam. History is written by the mighty; the worst calumnies were uttered about Imam Hasan al-Banna. Never did he cease to write, and to speak the truths that had nurtured him. But the despots’ love of power brought only death, bloodshed and torture. 
He had just turned twenty when al-Banna named him editor of his magazine, al-Shihab. Then he volunteered for service in Palestine, at age twenty-one, fighting to defend Jerusalem. In 1948, at twenty-two, he went to Pakistan where he was approached about assuming the post of Secretary General of the World Islamic Congress. But his determination terrified the “diplomats.” He stayed on in Pakistan for several months, participating in debates about constitutional questions and producing a weekly radio program on Islam and the Muslim world that brought him wide popularity among young people and intellectuals. 
Returning to Egypt, he threw himself into a campaign for social and political reform, traveling across the country, giving lectures, and chairing meetings. In 1952, he launched a monthly magazine modeled on al-Shihab, called al-Muslimun , for which some of the greatest Muslim scholars were to write and which would be distributed from Morocco to Indonesia in both Arabic and English. But Hasan al-Banna, well before his assassination, had given his followers a stern warning: the road will be long, and its mileposts will be pain, sadness and adversity. He knew, as did all those who accompanied him, that they would endure lies, humiliation, torture, exile and death. 
For him it was to be exile. Nasser had deceived him and his colleagues, jailed them, executed them. In 1954 he was forced to leave Egypt, not to return until August 8,1995, in his coffin: forty-one years of exile, suffering, commitment and sacrifice for God and justice—and against dictatorship and hypocrisy. Exile is the ultimate condition of faith. His path was a long one, the hardships and the sorrows manifold and unending. First in Palestine where he was named General Secretary of the World Islamic Congress of Jerusalem before being banned from the city by Glubb Pasha, himself following American orders. Then, in Damascus were he relaunched al-Muslimun with Mustafa al-Siba’i, and soon after, to Lebanon, before arriving in Geneva in 1958. In 1959 he obtained his Doctorate in Cologne, and published his thesis under the title ‘Islamic Law: its Scope and Equity’ in which he presented a synthesis of the fundamental positions of Hasan al-Banna on the subject of the Shari’a, law, political organization and religious pluralism. It was an essential book, the first of its kind in a European language, to posit Islam as a universal reference. It reflected is author’s conviction and determination and at the same time a clear-cut and unmistakable commitment to open mindedness—and never once the slightest acceptance of violence. 
IN 1961 he founded the Islamic Centre of Geneva with the support and participation of Muhammad Natsir, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Hamidullah, Zafar Ahmad Ansari and Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi—outstanding figures and faithful brothers in the same struggle. This Islamic centre was to be a model for others like it in Munich, London, Washington and, more generally, throughout the West. Its aim was to provide immigrant Muslims in Europe or the USA stay connected with their religion and to find a place of welcome and reflection. The Centre would likewise be a hub of activity for the presentation of Islam, for a publication program, and for analysis of current issues—all without external constraint. The Geneva Centre published numerous books and facsimiles in Arabic, English, French and German, and re-launched al-Muslimun, which ceased publication in 1967. Meanwhile he planned the creation of the Muslim World League, whose first statutes he drafted. His commitment was total; the Saudi funds he received via the League, which was at that time opposed to the Nasser regime, came with no particular conditions, commitment or obligation of political silence. When, at the end of the 1960s, the Muslim World League, which had by them come under much more direct Saudi influence, made its financial support conditional, insisting that it would take over the Islamic Centre and its activities, he refused. Then in 1971, all funding was cut off. He had never doubted that the road he must travel would be long and hard; such was the cost of independent thought and action. 
Many came to know and appreciate him during those years. He traveled to many countries—speaking publicly in Malaysia, staying for protracted periods in England, Austria or in the USA, creating links as he went, introducing his profound, analytical thought with its underpinning of spirituality and love. Even such a luminary as Mawdudi thanked him for awakening him from his unconsciousness; Muhammad Asad was grateful to him for having brought him to know, or rather to feel profoundly the thought of Hasan al-Banna. Malek Shabbaz (Malcolm X) heard in the kitchen of the Islamic Centre of Geneva that no race is chosen and that no Arab, no more than a black person, is superior to his white brother, except by piety. Malcolm X took the lesson to heart so deeply that his last written words, at the eve of his death in February 1965, were addressed to my father. Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) paid him numerous visits in his London hostel; later he would tell me how much he remembered Said Ramadan’s fine intelligence, calling him “so sweet a man.” In 1993, in a meeting at Geneva Airport, the scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi showed him all the signs of infinite respect. When I visited him years later in Lucknow, India, the site of the Nadwat al-‘Ulama’, al-Nadwi recalled with deep emotion one of his visits and the memories that it had left him. In exile, far from his own, exposed to political and financial harassment, and assailed by problems large and small, he worried and tormented his mind while keeping intact the essential: a deep faith and sense of fraternity, the eyes of tenderness and the highest standards of behavior. 
His room: piles of documents and magazines; here a telephone, there a radio and a television set, stacks of books, opened or annotated. The world was at his fingertips. Whoever stepped into his universe could not but be struck by a story, a past, a life, by sadness and solitude, by the multitude of memories alongside an incomparable grasp of current events. He maintained constant contact—that of emotional involvement—with the most distant lands. He knew almost everything that was going on in Tajikistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. He kept track of developments in Washington, Los Angeles, Harlem, London, Munich, Paris, Karachi and Geneva. His horizon seethed with information. He suffered so much and with such intensity in that room of his, from the state of the world, from the lies and the massacres, the prison sentences and the torture. His political intuition was breathtaking; it was easy to understand why he was feared. 
But analysis of current events was not enough for him. Everything interested him, from technology and medicine to science and ecology. He knew what was needed for a thoroughgoing reform in Islam. His curiosity, always alert, always lucid, knew no limits. He had traveled the world; henceforth the world would come into his room. Where once there had been crowds, scholars, presidents and kings, now only observation, analysis and deep sadness remained. In his solitude, though, there was the Qur’an; and in his isolation, there were invocations mingled with tears. He gave his children symbolic names, names from the history of persecution and boundless determination. A thread of complicity connected him with each one of us; we held his undivided attention, shared the sensitivity of our relationship with him, and his love. With Aymen, it was his success and wounds; with Bilal, his potential and his heartbreak; with Yasser, his presence, his generous devotion and his patience; with Arwa, his complicity and silences; with Hani, his commitment and his determination. He convinced each of us to believe in our own qualities. He reminded each of us that he had given us the best of mothers, she who is, with all the qualities of her heart, his most precious gift. 
After more than forty years in exile, after an entire life lived for God, faith and justice, he knew that his last hour had come. In night’s darkest hours he spoke again and again of love, fraternity and affection. A few months before returning to God, he told me, with all the power of his sad, tearful gaze: “Our problem is one of spirituality. If a man comes to speak to me about reform in the Muslim world, about political strategy and geopolitical schemes, my first question to him would be whether he performed the dawn prayer (fajr) on time.” He had a keen eye for the agitation in each of us, including my own. He reminded not to forget the essentials, to be close to God in order to know how to be close to men. After an entire lifetime of struggle, his hair turned grey by time, he reminded me: “Power is not our objective; we have nothing to do with it. Our goal is love of the Creator, the fraternity and justice of Islam. This is our message to dictators.” Late at night, in that famous room, he spoke of himself. The link with God is the path, spirituality, the light of the road. One day as he looked back upon his life, he told me: “Our ethical behavior, our awareness of good and evil is weapon used against us by despots, lovers of titles, power and money. They do what we cannot do; they lie as we cannot lie; they betray as we cannot betray and kill as we cannot kill. Our accountability before God is, in their eyes, our weakness. This apparent weakness is our real strength.”
That strength gave him energy until the very last. He remained deeply faithful to the message. To him I owe the understanding that to speak of God means, above all else, to speak of love, of the heart and fraternity. To him I owe the knowledge that solitude with God is better than neglect with men. To him I owe the feeling that deep sadness can never exhaust one’s faith in God. His generosity, his kindness and his knowledge were his most precious gifts. I thank God for giving me the gift of this father, at whose side I discovered that faith is love. Love of God and men in the face of trial and adversity.
Hasan al-Banna taught us: “Be like a fruit tree. If they attack you with stones, respond with fruits.” How well he had learned the lesson, then made it his own in the most intimate sense of the word. Observer of the world, far from the crowd, in the solitude of his room, after years of combat without respite for the sake of God, against treachery and corruption, his words drew their energy from the Sources and from the rabbaniyya (the essential link with the Creator). He never ceased speaking about God, about the heart and about the intimacy of this Presence. He had learnt the essential, and he summoned people directly to the essential. 
Now he lies at rest next to the one who taught him the way, Hasan al-Banna. May God have mercy on them. He had returned from exile only in death for despots fear the words of the living. But the silence of the dead is fraught with meaning, just like the supplications of those who suffer injustice: bitter words, but words of truth. Thus the Prophet (pbuh) has commanded us: “We are from God and to Him is our return.” on Friday August 4 1995, just before dusk, God called to him a man. A man, a son, a husband, a brother, a father-in-law, a grandfather, my father. The sole merit of those who remain will be to testify, day after day, their faithfulness to his memory and teaching. To love God, to respond to His call, walk side by side with men, to live and learn how to die, to live in order to learn how to die, whatever the obstacles and whatever the cost. 
Said Ramadan spent 41 years, almost an entire lifetime, in exile. What remains are his words, his vision and his determination. This life is not Life. 
May God receive him in His mercy, forgive him his sins and open for him the gates of Peace in the company of the Prophets, the pious and the just. 
May God make me for my children the father my father was for me.

Thanks Dustin! 

NYT: World Food Program Cuts Aid to Syrian Refugees in Jordan JULY 31, 2015

Nursi on the Mahdi

The future events that Most Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) predicted were not isolated incidents; he rather predicted general and recurring events in a particular way. Those events, however, had many sides to them and each time he mentioned them, he explained a different side. Then the narrator of the Hadiths combined all of those sides and they sometimes appear contrary to reality. There are, for example, varying narrations concerning the Mahdi, each with different details and descriptions. However, as was explained in a section of the Twenty-Four Word, the Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) gave the tidings, relying on revelation, of a Mahdi who would come in every century to preserve the morale of the believers, help them not to fall into despair in the face of disasters, and link the hearts of the believers with the people of the Prophet's Family, who constitute a luminous line in the world of Islam.  Every century has seen a Mahdi from the Prophet's Family, or several, similar to the Great Mahdi who is promised to come at the end of time. One of the 'Abbasid Caliphs even, who were said to be descendants of the Prophet's Family, was a Mahdi who possessed many of the Great Mahdi's characteristics. In this the attributes of the Mahdi's deputies and of the spiritual poles [aqṭāb] who were Mahdis who were to precede the Great Mahdi and were samples and forerunners of him, were confused with the attributes of the Great Mahdi himself, and the narrations concerning him were seen to conflict with one another.
-Fourth Principle, The Miracles of Muhammad - Fourth Sign, Letters 1928-1932 by Said Nursi, translated from the Turkish 'Metrubat by Ṣükran Vahide, (Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 2010), p. 122.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Reading List on Muslim Scholars and Politics

*** (Must read) The End of the Arab Spring, the Rise of ISIS and the Future of Political Islam Khaled Abou El Fadl 23 APR 2015

(Also a very important article) “Egypt Killed Islam in the West”: Revolution, Counterrevolution and Western Muslims by H. A. Hellyer

ISIS, Islamophobia and the End of Sunnism JANUARY 10, 2015 by Mohammad Fadel

Ali Gumah: Sisi’s most loyal Islamic scholar by Mohamad Elmasry Saturday 27 June 2015

Religious authority, state power and revolutions Recent events in the Arab and Muslim world are redefining the role of religious scholars. 15 Sep 2013 by Hatem Bazian

Imam Zaid Shakir on Muslim Revolutions Issue 79 April 2011 As protests and defiance spread in Muslim countries, questions are being asked as to whether such conduct is lawful.

The Arab War on Terror Obama's Middle East allies are signing up for the fight against the Islamic State. But it's not for the reason you think. BY JAMES TRAUB SEPTEMBER 22, 2014

The World War Inside Islam Why the United States can do very little to alter the course of events in the Middle East right now. BY JAMES TRAUB FEBRUARY 9, 2015

America Has Abdicated Its Guiding Role in the Middle East to a Sectarian Arab Military Force What could go wrong? BY JAMES TRAUB APRIL 10, 2015

What Were the Ulama Doing in Tahrir Square? Al-Azhar and the Narrative of Resistance to Oppression by Malika Zeghal Author Malika Zeghal February 17, 2011

Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Return to the Authoritarian State AUGUST 15, 2013 by HA Hellyer

"Salafis and Sufis in Egypt" by Dr. Jonathan Brown. Carnegie Paper.

"Discourses of Damascene Sunni Ulama During the 2011 Revolution" by Dr. Jawad Qureshi.

 Islamism has many faces. We must learn to read them all HA Hellyer If we are to understand the role Islamists play around the world we need to move beyond generalisation

Muslim Scholars and Troubling Political Fatwas Mohamed Ghlian / August 25, 2014

Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East (Book) by Shadi Hamid
In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously announced the "end of history." The Berlin Wall had fallen; liberal democracy had won out. But what of illiberal democracy--the idea that popular majorities, working through the democratic process, might reject gender equality, religious freedoms, and other norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups to power. 
In Temptations of Power, Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with leaders and activists from across the region to advance a new understanding of how Islamist movements change over time. He puts forward the bold thesis that repression "forced" Islamists to moderate their politics, work in coalitions, de-emphasize Islamic law, and set aside the dream of an Islamic state. Meanwhile, democratic openings in the 1980s--and again during the Arab Spring--pushed Islamists back toward their original conservatism. With the uprisings of 2011, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one for which they were unprepared. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of both political parties and religious movements, leading to an inherent tension they have struggled to resolve. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and significant backlash. Yet, while the Egyptian coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist "project," obituaries of political Islam are premature. 
As long as the battle over the role of religion in public life continues, Islamist parties in countries as diverse as Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power. But what are the key factors driving their evolution? A timely and provocative reassessment, Hamid's account serves as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region's varied Islamist groups have come from and where they might be headed.

Shaykh Emad Effat's message to Ibrahim El Houdaiby

 In the years running up to the outbreak of the revolutionary uprising in Egypt in 2011, Effat wrote to his student and revolutionary figure, Ibrahim al-Houdeiby. The contents of that message show clearly how rare the likes of Effat were – and are:
“There are all these good words about respect for shaykhs, giving them leeway and excuses, but where is God’s right to His own religion? Where is the right of the public who are confused about the truth because shaykhs are silent, and your own silence out of respect for senior shaykhs? What is this new idol that you call pressure; how does this measure to Ahmed ibn Hanbal’s tolerance of jail and refusing to bend and say what would comfort the unjust rulers?”
“What is this new idol you invented? The idol of pressure! If we submit to these new rituals, to this new idol, we would then tolerate everyone who lies, commits sins and great evils under the pretext of easing pressure and escaping it. Oh people, these pressures are only in your head and not in reality. Is there a new opinion in jurisprudence that coercion can be by illusion? Have we come to use religious terms to circumvent religion and justify the greater sins we commit? So we use legitimate phrases such as pros and cons, the lesser of two evils, and pressure to make excuses for not speaking up for what is right and surrendering to what is wrong!”

Imam Zaid Shakir - Say No To War

Say No To War
The political theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, famously said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means." If that is the case, war is a politics that we do not need, because it only opens the door to mass murder, under the disguise of a political agenda. As Muslims we should know this all too well, as many of our lands are being ripped apart by the wars that grow out of "righteous" politics.
Perhaps the most repugnant of these wars is the American-backed, Saudi-led destruction of Yemen. Yemen was poor to begin with. Now with the naval blockade, the destruction of the little infrastructure that did exist and the punitive bombings of civilian areas the entire population is threatened with starvation and no one is secure. Innocent people are suffering and dying because of the self-righteous and selfish politicians.
The contending politicians can point condemnatory fingers at whosoever they please, but at the end of the day, the politics leading to this disaster are disgusting. Muslim blood is too precious to be spilled over the cheap politics defining this and the other crises plaguing the Muslim world. We must say no to these politics and the wars they birth. If we refuse to be a party to these charades, the politicians definitely will not take the field and put their lives on the line for their cheap wars. When we all say no, these wars will end.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Story of a Hate Crime What led to the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill? BY MARGARET TALBOT

Must read!

From the June 22nd, 2015 New Yorker:

In “The Story of a Hate Crime” (p. 36), Margaret Talbot examines the killing of three young Muslims in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, apartment complex, in February this year, and explores the search for answers in the aftermath of the crime. Talbot speaks to the friends and families of Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan, who were shot execution-style by Craig Hicks—an irate forty six-year-old who had previously brandished his gun in the presence of his neighbors. “The murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan, like all unprovoked acts of brutality, were pointless,” Talbot writes. “But they were not meaningless. From the moment the news broke, people began the work of assigning that meaning.” The Chapel Hill police had one interpretation: after Hicks’s arrest, they issued a statement declaring that the killings had likely been “motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.” The Barakats and the Abu-Salhas found the“parking dispute” interpretation trivializing and implausible. For many, the killings fit into a larger story of increasing hostility toward Muslims.
According to statistics compiled by the F.B.I., anti-Muslim hate crimes multiplied after September 11th, and they have remained five times as common as they were before 2001. Barakat’s sister, Suzanne, tells Talbot, “It’s time people started talking about how real Islamophobia is—that it’s not just a word tossed around for political purposes but that it has literally knocked on our doorstep and killed three of our American children.” The F.B.I. and the Department of Justice have opened an inquiry into whether the killing constituted a hate crime, and the Durham County prosecutor has announced that it is pursuing the death penalty against Hicks. “To the families and friends of the victims, it was the naming of the crime, not the punishment, that mattered most,” Talbot writes.