Thursday, July 30, 2015

Addressing ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’

By Wasim Iqbal, New Age Islam
30 July, 2015
Not long after it was announced that the former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam had died, large posters bearing his picture and grieving his demise sprouted up all across the town that I am presently visiting. Many of these were in slums and lower-middle class localities. People had probably pooled in money to have these pictures put up as a mark of respect and love for the departed soul. Clearly, Abdul Kalam was a ‘People’s President’, who struck a deep chord even with the poor, from whose ranks he had himself emerged. He was definitely one of the most widely-respected leaders that India has ever had.
The late Indian President had a very obviously ‘Muslim’ name, but that did not prevent vast numbers of Indians, irrespective of caste, class and religious background, from adoring him. Clearly, then (unlike what some Muslims imagine), being ‘Muslim’ is in itself by no way a permanent and impassable barrier for Muslims to win the love, respect and hearts of people from other faith backgrounds.
Today, there is much talk and concern—especially, but not only, in Muslim circles—about anti-Muslim prejudice and negative views about Islam that in recent years have skyrocketed across the globe. Many Muslims who are deeply concerned about this issue insist that it needs to be tackled urgently. They propose a range of measures to deal with it, including launching efforts to educate people of other faiths about Islam so as to address their concerns and misconceptions about the faith; appealing to states to penalize hate speech against Muslims; calling for governments to expand existing anti-discrimination laws to include ‘Islamophobia’ under their ambit, and so on.
Yet, even as such Muslims continue to press with such demands, anti-Muslim sentiments continue to mount. It is not at all difficult to see why. ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ have much to do with the views, attitudes and behaviour of significant numbers of Muslims themselves, who are themselves a major cause for ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ across the world today. This is something that those Muslims who readily accuse the rest of the world as being inherently and congenitally ‘Islamophobic’ do not seem to, or choose not to, recognize.
The horrific barbarities that continue to be committed by a host of self-styled ‘Islamic’ groups in different countries are, in fact, at the very root of anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiments that are now widespread among non-Muslims. Whether it is the persecution of non-Muslim minorities and the pervasive gender injustice in many Muslim-majority societies or the violent political culture and brutally authoritarian political system in almost every Muslim-majority country, the deadly terrorist attacks by self-proclaimed ‘Islamic Mujahideen’ that have taken an enormous toll of precious lives or the ongoing sectarian strife and wars in large parts of the ‘Muslim world’—all of these (and many more such) crimes against God and humanity, committed by such Muslims and generally in the name of Islam,  are the fundamental cause of widespread negative views among non-Muslims about Islam and the people who claim to follow it. And as these barbarities committed by these self-styled champions of Islam continue to mount, ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ continue to escalate.
Given this fact, no amount of laws against hate speech and no amount of literature or speeches that aim to educate non-Muslims about Islam —measures that many Muslims typically call for—can do anything substantial to address ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’, which, thanks principally to the actions of some Muslims themselves in the name of Islam, have now become a deeply-rooted and pervasive phenomenon at the global level. This is because these sorts of suggested measures are based on a very partial diagnosis of ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. They reflect an erroneous perception of ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ as being simply a result of misunderstandings about Islam among people of other faiths.
These explanations conveniently and very completely absolve Muslims of their share of the blame for ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. It is as if the long list of horrors that continue to be committed in the name of Islam by many of its self-styled champions makes no difference at all to how others perceive Islam and those who claim to be its followers. Denial of this fact—of the key role of criminals claiming to be champions of Islam in fomenting ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ through the horrors that they continue to commit in the name of Islam—can only make ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ get much worse than it already is.
Rather than seeking to counter ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ simply by appealing to people of other faiths to change their views about Islam, it is Muslims themselves who need to change their own behaviour  with, and attitudes towards, others. This is the only way that others might begin to change their views about Islam and their behaviour with Muslims. As the Quran (13:11) beautifully puts it, “God does not change the condition of a people's lot, unless they change what is in their hearts.”
It is a basic and unalterable universal law that you get what you give. If you hate others, you will receive hate from them in return. If you look down on others, they will look down on you. If you do not help others, others will not help you. If you do not reach out to others, others will not reach out to you. Today, if many Muslims feel that others treat them with scorn and suspicion, they must recognize that it is largely because they have treated others in precisely the same way. And they must also understand that if they wish others to change the way they think about Muslims, they must first change the way they think of others and treat them.
“Whatever misfortune befalls you is of your own doing”, the Quran (42:30) says. In the light of this Quranic verse, Muslims must wake up to their own role in promoting ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. That is the only way to come out of the morass in which they find themselves.
If Muslims want others to care for them, they must care for them first, and on a unilateral basis, if need be.
If Muslims want others to know that Islam is a religion of compassion, they need to be exemplify compassion in their own views, attitudes and behavior—including in their understanding of Islam and in the way they deal among themselves and with people of other faiths.
If Muslims want others to understand that Islam stands for peace, they need to live in peace with themselves and with others. They must insist that Islam is not at all what groups like the ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and other such terrorist outfits make it out to be.
If Muslims want others to know that Islam stands for justice and that it is opposed to injustice, they must  act justly with others—including with women and with people of other faiths. They need to highlight that Islam does not sanction misogyny, sectarian hate, terrorism and animosity towards people of other faiths that radical Islamists and a not inconsiderable number of Muslim clerics insist it does.
Muslims need to go back to the religion of mercy, kindness and compassion that the Prophet Muhammad was commissioned by God to teach. This is what God wants of them. It is only then that other people will begin to love and respect them.
In the Quran (21:107) God, says this about the Prophet Muhammad:
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.”
Following the merciful Prophet, Muslims must be merciful, too. This mercy needs to be reflected in their understanding of Islam and in their behaviour—including in their dealings with people of other faiths.
Muslims must make it clear, through the way they understand and seek to live out Islam, that this religion of mercy has no place whatsoever for bomb-blasts, for massacring innocent people, for oppressing women, for hating and terrorizing people of other faiths, and so on—all the many horrific crimes that numerous self-styled defenders of Islam continue to commit in the name of Islam, thereby becoming the principal agent for widespread ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ across the world.
Inspired by the right understanding of Islam, Muslims need to proactively reach out to people of other faiths, through love, compassion, concern, care, genuine well-wishing and the spirit of service, as Islam teaches them to. And then they will find that just as a man from a poverty-stricken Muslim family was able to become the President of India and win the hearts of millions of his countrymen from religious communities other than the one he was born into, they, too, can earn the regard, goodwill and love of people of others if they spread goodness and love and prove to be an asset to them. And they can also then discover that this is the only way to address ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘anti-Muslimism’ and to help others develop a positive and respectful image of Islam and of those who claim to follow it.

Sufi Maxim for Self-Authenticity: Never Crave To Become Another Person, Just Be Your Honest Self!

By Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu, New Age Islam
30 July, 2015
            It is really futile to compare ourselves with others—be it in our success or in our failures. How could we ever compare ourselves with others? They are not us and we are not them! Our paths of life are totally different from each other. We cannot even judge another person until we are truly able to see the experiences he or she went through in life. How could we ever envy the success of another when we have not seen the struggles, the hurts and the pains that the person went through before he or she reaches that particular level of success in his or her life? Are we willing to go through what the other went through—all those blood, sweat, fatigue, stress, hurts, pains and tears that one has expended in his life that made him or her reach the goal?
            In their philosophical treatises, existentialists always emphasize on what they termed “human situatedness” as part and parcel of our existence as persons. We are all unique, the existentialists say, because in our birth, we are simply “thrown” into the world without our permission. This is why we all have different and unique circumstances; and our experiences in a particular time-and-space situations within a particular culture, and our coping mechanisms in the midst of our “thrown-ness” made us all unique, unrepeatable and irreducible individuals. As humans, we are endowed with individual freedom to be able to cope-up with our various situatedness: yet it is precisely this individual freedom to act in the midst of the varied challenges in our life’s circumstances that made us incommensurably and irreplaceably unique as individuated persons.
            Our experiences with the daily struggles in this world leave indelible imprints in our soul that would make us uniquely different from another soul. We arrived in this world “thrown” into a particular set of circumstances, cultures, creeds, ethos, families and life situations. Moment by moment, we cope-up with Life in a variety of ways, for Life comes to treat us in different ways just as well. Some are treated nicely by Life; but for others, Life can be downright cruel at worst. Each experience we have brings us precious lessons in life… And Life is an expert teacher, for all her lessons are individualized—different lessons for different souls, and no lessons are ever the same for everyone. So in this case, can we truly, really, and honestly judge someone or his/her life? Can we ever bring ourselves to compare with others? “Judge ye not; so that ye be not judged”, thundered the voice of the Holy Prophet Jesus the Messiah, in the Gospel. (St. Matthew 7:1).
            As of this juncture, I remember fondly an ancient Turkish prayer attributed to Hazrat Yunus Emre, an 11th century Sufi minstrel, which I learned back in my elementary days: “Lord, teach me not to judge anyone if I have not walked a day or two in their sandals. Lord, teach me to withhold my tongue in criticizing someone if I have not walked a day’s journey with him”. (Cited in Mehmet Fayzi, Yunus Emre Hazretleri Sohbet ve Nasihat [Conversations with and Advices of Hazrat Yunus Emre], p.19) Take this very clearly: we must not even compare our pains with the pains of another for they are totally different. Let us stop living our lives in the fallacy of “Non-Sequitur” (it does not follow)! My life is my life and the other has his/her own life and it does not follow that I compare myself with him/her. When we envy another person for what he or she has achieved in life, when we become covetous of what  one has that we do not have, we are in truth saying that our life has no worth and that our existence is a nothing—we are in effect saying that the other’s existence is worth more than ours! But we are all valuable, and we have intrinsic worth: that is why Almighty God gives us this time and opportunity to exist, in order to experience and learn from the School of Life. If we always look at our own sadness, and covet the happiness of others, thereby allowing envy to consume and burn us from within, we are living a life of misery, a life of a lie, an illusory, deceptive and pathetic existence. Come to think of it: try as we may, we will never be the other person and the other person will never be us!
            What spiritual relevance does this present reflection on the uniqueness of one’s existence bring us? The realization that we need to tolerate others and the need to accept the differences we have as individual human existents. But above all, we also learn the profound truth that my life is mine alone and I cannot live the life of another. Envying another’s life is illogical and coveting the success of others is idiotic. There is a very beautiful saying of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad: “Each person is given the measure of failure and success, pain and joy according to his capacity to bear them. The cycle of pain and happiness in life are lessons for us to contemplate upon, so that we will remember that this present life is not the real goal, but God is the true Goal of one’s existence” (cited in At-Tarjum al-Bayhaqi fi Sahih-Ain [Commentary of Imam Al-Bayhaqi on Sahih Bukhari and Muslim], xx:9; p.147).
            I like very much the above mentioned prophetic quotation (Hadith) from the wisdom of the Holy Prophet of Islam. For the present readers of my article who are more of a secular bent or of a philosophical temperament; let me translate what the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in effect, said from an existentialist perspective. The Holy Prophet is saying that all our experiences are provided by Life to us so that by reflecting upon the alternating of pain and joy, suffering and happiness, we will be able to know who we truly are—and through the varied circumstances in our life (be they painful or joyful), we will discover the deep truth of ourselves and of others. It is only through sufferings and difficulties that one can attain mastery in life, and can hone one to be a person of genuine character and self-authenticity. This was also what Hazrat Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the famous 12th century Turkish mystic, meant when he says that one should be grateful of our own life’s experiences instead of hankering and coveting the success of another. To quote from Hazrat Maulana Rumi: “God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly—and not just one.” (Mathnawi Selections, Islamabad, Pakistan: Ruhaniyyat Press, 1985; p 76)
            For Maulana Rumi, life is characterized by the alternating movements of opposites: conflict and peace, peace and conflict, happiness and sufferings, sufferings and happiness, joy and pain, pain and joy… so on and so forth. God designs this alternating psycho-spiritual dynamics in the inward soul for the moral, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development of each human existent. All human beings have their own sets of joys and sadness, happiness and sufferings, success and failures so that it is indeed futile to covet another’s life without being able to experience the other’s difficulties and failures. From the point of view of Islamic spirituality known as Sufism, our experiences of suffering make us more resolute, spiritually mature and holy, since the experiences of pain and suffering will prod us to place our reliance solely on the All-Benevolent God (Ar-Rahman) Who allows us to experience difficulties for the good of our souls: in order to mature us and to make us truly unique, individuated, self-actualized and God-conscious persons.
            Therefore, the next time we begin scratching this itch of comparing ourselves with others and of competing with their achievements, let’s recall the undeniable truth that we cannot be the other person—we can only be ourselves. Covetousness is a grave sin, and the Torah of Prophet Moses sternly warns us: “Thou shalt not covet!” (Exodus 20:17). Competition should only be with ourselves—that is, how we can better our own selves. Let us learn to see ourselves as having intrinsic worth because our eternal value does not come from what we have accomplished or will ever achieve in the future, but from who we really are in the goodness of our heart and in the purity of our intentions. So how about it? Something worth pondering upon in our present existence.
Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor-VI of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu City. He was former Academic Coordinator of the Political Science Program at UP Cebu from 2011-2014. He is presently the Coordinator of Gender and Development (GAD) Office at UP Cebu. His research interests include Islamic Studies particularly Sunni jurisprudence, Islamic feminist discourses, Islam in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Islamic environmentalism, the writings of Imam Al-Ghazali on pluralism and tolerance, Turkish Sufism, Muslim-Christian dialogue, Middle Eastern affairs, Peace Studies and Public Theology.

The Meaning of 'Hadith'

By Louay Fatoohi
30 July, 2015
Article Reproduced on New Age Islam from the Author’s Blog by His Permission
 The term “Hadith” is one of the most used Islamic terms by both Muslims and non-Muslims. But despite its importance, there is often a good deal of ambiguity about what it exactly means. It is often used inconsistently and inaccurately. This article aims at clarifying the exact meaning of this term.
The noun “Hadith” occurs in the Qur’an twenty three times (4.42, 4.78, 4.87, 4.140, 6.68, 7.185, 12.111, 18.6, 20.9, 31.6, 33.53, 39.23, 45.6, 51.24, 52.34, 53.59, 56.81, 66.3, 68.44, 77.50, 79.15, 85.17, 88.1). Its plural form “Ahadith” is found five times (12.6, 12.21, 12.101, 23.44, and 34.19). In these twenty eight verses, the term broadly means “narrative,” “story,” “speech,” or “news,” which may or may not be religious. For instance, God describes the Qur’an as “the best of Hadith” (39.23), refers to the story of Moses as the “Hadith of Moses” (20.9), and says about nations that He destroyed for rejecting the messengers He sent to them “We have made them Ahadith” (23.44). Other variations of this term occur in another eight Qur’anic verses (2.76, 18.70, 20.113, 21.2, 26.5, 65.1, 93.11, 99.4).
Of the thirty six occurrences of the term “Hadith”, only one is linked to something specific to Prophet Muhammad. This is verse 93.11 where the Prophet is commanded by God to speak about His favor to him, i.e. making him a Prophet: “As for the favor of your Lord, Hadith (speak about).” But even in this solitary instance, the verb “Hadith” is used in its generic meaning. Indeed, the verb is used in another verse to refer to the speech of disbelievers (2.76).
But the term “Hadith” has acquired in Islamic literature the very specific meaning of reports about what the Prophet said, did, approved, and disapproved of, explicitly or implicitly. Indeed, Hadith is considered as the main source of the “Sunna” or “customary behavior” of the Prophet. The other source is the “Sira” or “biography” of the Prophet. It is this technical meaning of the term “Hadith” that the rest of this article focuses on.
Any Hadith consists of two parts, the first is known as “Isnad” or “Sanad,” and the second is known as “Matn.” The generic meaning of “Isnad,” whose plural is “Asanid”, is “support” or “foundation.” But in the terminology of Hadith it refers to the chain of transmitters of the Hadith. These narrators are called “Isnad” because they provide the “support” for the historicity of the Hadith.
Lexically, “Matn” denotes the visible part of something. In the technical language of Islamic literature, “Matn” denotes the saying, behavior, or incident that is being reported by the chain of transmitters. To illustrate these concepts, this is a Hadith about using the visibility of the new moon to determine the beginning and the end of the fasting month of Ramadan:
Yahya bin Bukair told us on that al-Laith said, that ‘Uqail said, that ibn Shihab said, that Salim said, that ibn ‘Umar said that he heard the Messenger of Allah say: “When you see it start your fast and when you see it break your fast. If it was cloudy, make an estimate [for the start of end of the fasting month].” (Bukhari, 1900)
The chain of transmission, or isnad, is marked in red whereas what is being reported, or Matn, is in green.
Hadith narratives at times quote the Prophet directly:
Sa‘id bin Yahya bin Sa‘id al-Qurashi told us that his father said, that Abu Burda bin Abdullah bin Abi Burda said, that Abi Burda said, that Abi Musa said that people asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Whose practice of Islam is the best?” He said: “The one who does not cause harm to Muslims by his tongue or hand.” (Bukhari, 11)
A Hadith may not quote the Prophet directly but report what he was heard saying or seen doing:
‘Abda bin ‘Abdullah told us that ‘Abdul Samad said, that ‘Abdullah bin al-Muthanna said, that Thumama bin ‘Abdullah said, that Anas said about the Prophet that when he said something he repeated it three times until it was fully understood and that when he encountered people he greeted them three times. (Bukhari, 95)
A Hadith may show the Prophet’s tacit approval of something, as in this example in which the Messenger does not stop Muslims from keeping his cut hair:
Muhammad bin Abdul Rahim told us that Sa‘id bin Sulaiman said, that ‘Abbad said, that ibn ‘Awn said, that ibn Sirin said, that Anas said that when the Messenger of Allah had his hair cut Abu Talha was the first to take his hair. (Bukhari, 171)
But even in Islamic literature the term “Hadith” has been used in a broader sense. Some of the reports found in the collections of Hadith detail things that “Sahaba (Companions)” of the Prophet said or did, rather than the Messenger himself. At times, this may be a statement reflecting the view of a Companion:
‘Ali said: “Speak to people about what they know. Do you want them to accuse Allah and His Messenger of lying?” It was ‘Ubaidullah bin Musa on the authority of Ma‘ruf bin Kharrabudh, on the authority of Abil Tufail, on the authority of ‘Ali [who reported this] (Bukhari, 127)
The implication of such Hadiths is that the teaching conveyed by the Companion reflects what he learned from the Prophet.
It should be noted, however, that the term “Companion” is used rather loosely by scholars. While some individuals, such as ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, who transmitted the Hadith above, spent many years in the company of the Prophet, others are called Companions for only seeing the Prophet! For instance, in his book al-Isaba fi Ma‘rifat al-Sahaba (Identifying the Companions Correctly), ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1448) calls “Companion” any “Muslim who met the Prophet, believed in him, and died while still a believer.”
Another interesting feature of Hadith 127 is that its isnad follows the Matn, which is the opposite of the normal situation.
The following Hadith reports a statement by a Companion rather than something the Prophet said, but because it is about a pledge given by that Companion to the Prophet, the implication is that the Companion’s words and actions were approved by the Prophet:
Musaddad told us that Yahya said, that Isma‘il said, that Qais bin Abi Hazim said, that Jarir bin ‘Abdullah said: “I pledged to the Messenger of Allah that I will perform the prayer, pay the obligatory alms, and give good advice to every Muslim.” (Bukhari, 57)
In the text of Hadiths, variations of “Hadith” are also used in the generic sense of this term, i.e. not referring specifically to sayings of the Prophet. For instance, the term “Haddathana (told us)” is frequently used with individuals who are quoted as the source of Hadith. In fact, all of the Hadiths quoted above use the term “Haddathana (told us)” in reference to at least one of the narrators.
Another feature of the Hadith literature worth noting is that a Hadith may exist in a number of different wordings and different chains of transmission. For example, this Hadith is clearly a different version of the Hadith above:
Ya‘qub bin Ibrahim told us that Hushaim said, that Sayyar said, that al-Sha‘bi said, that Jarir bin ‘Abdullah said: “I pledged to the Prophet listening and obeying, so he taught me to add ‘as much as I can, and to give good advice to every Muslim’” (Bukhari, 7402)
Significantly, the last part of the statement that Hadith 57 attributes to Jarir appears in Hadith 7402 as something the Prophet said.
Unlike the Qur’an, whose authenticity is accepted by all Muslims, Ahadith may or may not be authentic. Muslim denominations differ on which Hadiths are authentic and which are not. Sunni Muslims have particularly high regard for the two Hadith collections of Bukhari (194-256/810-870) and his student Muslim (206-261/821-875). They call them “Sahih (correct)” to reflect their almost complete confidence that they contain authentic Hadiths only. Other highly regarded Hadith collections are those of Abu Dawud (202-275/817-888), Ibn Majah (209-273/824-887), al-Tirmidhi (209-279/824-892), and al-Nasa’i (215-303 / 830-915). All six were compiled as late as about two and a half centuries after the Prophet, although they relied on earlier sources.
Shia scholars do not have as much confidence in those sources, in particular as they contain many narratives attributed to Companions of the Prophet that the Shais do not trust because they think they showed animosity toward ‘Ali bin Abi Talib — the Prophet’s close Companion and cousin, fourth caliph, and the first Shia imam. The Shias rely on other compilations of Hadith and the accounts related through their imams. One of the most respected Hadith books by the Shias is al-Kafi by Muhammad al-Kulaini (250-329/864-940).
While there are clear differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims in their assessment of the authenticity of Hadith collections, differences about Hadith are not confined to the Sunni/Shia divide. Scholars within any denomination have also differed on whether certain Hadiths are genuine or not. Yet because of the importance of Hadith as the main source of the Sunna, which is considered the second source of legislation in Islam, Muslim scholars have developed a complex system for critiquing Hadiths. This system classifies Hadiths into a number of different categories of historical reliability. The classification system aims to describe the likelihood of each Hadith being authentic, i.e. how likely that the Hadith accurately describes a historical event. There are many categories that range from the “Sahih (correct/authentic)” and “Hasan (agreeable)” to the “dha‘if (weak)” and “Maudu‘ (forged).”
The Hadith classification system focuses almost exclusively on the reliability of the chain of transmission. For instance, if one of the narrators in the Isnad lacked credibility or is known to have lied, then that would discredit the Hadith. Similarly, if the Hadith was originally reported on the authority of someone who did not meet the Prophet, then that would put the Hadith in a lower category, and so on.
This near complete concentration of Hadith criticism on the chain of transmission reflects the scholars’ view that they could not tell whether a reported event or saying by the Prophet is likely to have happened on the basis of its details, i.e. Matn. They could not claim to have the ability to judge, for instance, whether the Prophet could have given a particular instruction or not, because that might implicitly be the equivalent of claiming a level of knowledge that is comparable to that of the Prophet. There are some Hadiths that were challenged on the basis of their Matns despite the reliability of their chains of transmission — for instance, if they were found to be in conflict with other accepted Hadiths — but these are relatively small in number. Significantly, in these cases, scholars are being “forced” to consider the Matn, which is a completely different approach from giving Matn at least as important a position as Isnad in Hadith criticism.
In my view, relying almost completely on the credibility of the chain or transmitters and not examining the substance of the Hadith to take a view on its credibility is an extreme position that is highly insufficient and likely to mislead:
·         First, examining the chain of transmission can at times allow the scholar to form a firm view on its reliability, but this is not always the case. It is often an extremely difficult task that is fraught with difficulties, some of which are insurmountable. Let’s take a Hadith whose narrators are considered to be reliable and who are known to have met each other, so they could have heard the Matn of the Hadith from each other. It is still perfectly possible that the Matn of this Hadith might be unhistorical. This could be the result of an innocent mistake by one of the narrators or outright forgery. The older any such mistake or forgery, the more difficult it is to spot it by later scholars.
·         Second, the Qur’an has a wealth of information and principles that can be used to assess the credibility of the Matn of any Hadith, so one is not relying completely on their own judgment. The Qur’an, after all, is the word of God, which can be used to examine the reliability and accuracy of any other statement, including what people have attributed to the Prophet.
·         Third, one can reject the historicity of any Hadith whose Matn looks illogical, unreasonable or absurd. The status of Muhammad as the Messenger of God would rule out the possibility of him behaving in the way some Hadiths claim or making the kind of statements that are found in some Hadith reports.
 The science of Hadith criticism that Muslim scholars have meticulously developed over the centuries has provided scrutiny of the numerous Hadiths. But inevitable limitations in this human system mean complete submission to it was always going to be the wrong approach. The Qur’an is indispensable when assessing the reliability of the Matn of the Hadith. Similarly, any Hadith that attributes an unreasonable or absurd statement or behavior to the Prophet should be rejected regardless of the chain of transmission attached to it. Hadith criticism over-relies on the chain of transmission to the point of making the Matn almost irrelevant. This, in my view, has been a serious flaw in Hadith criticism, which has resulted in the acceptance of a large number of inauthentic Hadiths.
Copyright © 2011 Louay Fatoohi

Multicultural Folly of Denying ‘Islamist Ideology’ In Terrorism

By Janet Albrechtsen
July29, 2015
It’s so rare for a politician to climb out on a limb that the very notion of a brave political speech has almost become an oxymoron. So let’s give credit where it is due.
Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron confronted a tough debate with brutal honesty. For too long, Western leaders have danced around the real reasons for the rise of Islamic State.
From US President Barack Obama to Tony Abbott, Western leaders have shied away from telling it like it is, choosing instead mealy-mouthed political correctness and cultural infirmity.
Speaking at Birmingham’s Nine¬stiles School, Cameron said this: “In the past, governments have been too quick to dismiss the religious aspect of Islamist extremism … But simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work.”
He’s right. In Australia, Abbott, normally a straight-shooter, has failed to make the honest link between Islam and Islamic State.
Cameron made the obvious point that “these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. The fact is from Woolwich to Tunisia, from Ottawa to Bali, these murderers all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith.”
He said it is futile to deny that. Worse, it is dangerous to deny the link because you neuter the important voices that seek to challenge the religious interpretations adopted by extremists. Cameron wants to embolden those voices that provide an alternative view of Islam to halt the slide along the spectrum of extremism by so many young Brits.
It has taken a long time for even one Western leader to confront the truth that, as Graeme Wood wrote in The Atlantic in March: “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”
Wood added that while most Muslims rejected Islamic State, to pretend it was not a religious group with theology drawn from Islam had led the West to underestimate its ambitions and meant we could not hope to counter it.
The British Prime Minister also admonished Muslim groups for thinking it’s enough to say “we don’t support IS”. As he said, al-Qa’ida doesn’t support Islamic State either. “So we can’t let the bar sink to that level. Condemning a mass-murdering, child-raping organisation cannot be enough to prove you’re challenging the extremists,” he said.
This is bracing stuff. When was the last time Western leaders demanded that Muslim leaders who genuinely want to challenge extremists must also condemn the wild conspiracy theories about the malevolent power of Jews, about the West’s aim to destroy Islam, about Muslims being wronged by the evil actions of the West? When did we last hear a leader say it’s not good enough to condemn terror attacks in London, then feed an ideology by siding with those who set off suicide bombs on Israel?
As Cameron said: “No one becomes a terrorist from a standing start.” Conspiracy theories feed the extremist narrative.
Cameron is right to condemn the grievance mindset and the victimhood mentality adopted by many Muslim groups and exploited by Islamic State to attract followers. What Cameron failed to do was explore how the West itself encouraged victimhood complaints and grievance contests to flourish. While he pointed to the growing segregation of Muslims in schools and public housing, Cameron failed to admit the West’s pursuit of unbridled multiculturalism 40 years ago encouraged this segregation.
Whereas once we expected migrants to integrate into our culture, accept our values, multiculturalism unshackled those cultural connections. Whereas 40 years ago, the only label that attached to a migrant was, for example, “new Australian”, multi¬cul¬turalism encouraged each migrant group to adopt a hyphenated identity that allowed cultural and moral relativism to flourish. And that unleashed identity politics and its close relatives, grievance games and equally spurious victimhood claims.
Cultural appeasement emasculates our values. It means that in Australia, the Abbott government refused to deliver its promise to bolster free speech in this country. When Abbott dropped his pre-election promise to reform section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, an illiberal law that allows people to shut down words that are offensive or insulting, he said it was about preserving national unity and team Australia.
In fact, it was a political sop to those so-called community leaders who oppose moves to shore up free speech. Without a rock-solid commitment to free speech, important debates are stifled.
Cultural complacency explains the 10th annual Lowy Institute survey finding only 60 per cent of Australians, and just 42 per cent of young Australians aged 18 to 29, believe “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government”.
Cultural complacency explains the results of the Institute of Public Affairs’ recent report, The End of History … in Australian Universities, which found that while Australia’s political and cultural institutions have their origins in Britain, of the 739 history subjects taught in Australian universities last year, only 15 covered British history.
As the IPA’s John Roskam wrote last week, “There’s no space for economic history in any history department, but there is room for 15 film studies subjects, 14 feminism subjects and 12 sexuality subjects.”
Cultural appeasement has horrendous physical costs too. Cameron pointed to nearly 4000 cases of female genital mutilation reported in Britain last year and 11,000 cases of so-called honour-based violence in the past five years. And he added, these are just the reported cases.
We would be foolish to imagine the same evils are absent in ¬Australia.
The British PM also condemned many British universities for pretending to be bastions of free speech but stifling intellectual debates when it matters. Cameron pointed out that the universities invite Holocaust denier David Irving onto a campus so they can rightly condemn him. But when an Islamic extremist spouts their evil ideology to university students, university leaders don’t say a word to challenge this ideological filth. Cameron denounced the “misguided liberalism and the cultural sensitivity”.
Once again, he should have added that 40 years ago a virulent strain of multiculturalism introduced freedom-loathing viruses into our societies. Only when we combat those viruses can we start reasserting confidence in our own culture — a crucial prerequisite for convincing others about the great virtues of living in a free society.

For the Mideast, It’s Still 1979

By Thomas L. Friedman
July 29, 2015
I started my career as a foreign correspondent in Beirut in 1979. I didn’t know it at the time, but 1979 turned out to be one of the great vintage years for foreign news — particularly from the Middle East. It set in motion the most important dynamics still shaping that region today. In fact, it’s been 1979 for 36 years. And the big question about the Iran nuclear deal reached this month is, Will it ultimately be a break from the history set in motion in 1979, and put the region on a new path, or will it turbo-charge 1979 in ways that could shake the whole world?
What happened in 1979? For starters, there was the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists who challenged the religious credentials of the Saudi ruling family, accusing them of impiety. The al-Sauds responded by forging a new bargain with their religious conservatives: Let us stay in power and we’ll give you a freer hand in setting social norms, relations between the sexes and religious education inside Saudi Arabia — and vast resources to spread the puritanical, anti-women, anti-Shiite, anti-pluralistic Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism to mosques and schools around the world.
This Saudi lurch backward coincided with Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, which brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power. That revolution set up a global competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Muslim world, and it also led to a big surge in oil prices that gave both regimes more money than ever to export Shiite and Sunni fundamentalism. That is why the Egyptian scholar Mamoun Fandy liked to say, “Islam lost its brakes in 1979.”
That competition was further fueled by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 — which spawned the Sunni jihadist movement and eventually Al Qaeda — and by the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, also in 1979, which basically ended all new building of nuclear power plants in America, making us more dependent on fossil fuels. Of course, the Islamic Revolution in Iran also led to a break in relations with the U.S. — and shifted Iran from a tacit ally of Israel’s to a country wishing “death to Israel.”
So the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal marks a big change — but because it will lead to an end to economic sanctions on Iran, it could turbo-charge 1979 as easily as end it. That depends on a lot of factors: Will the nuclear deal empower the more moderate/pragmatic majority inside Iran rather than the hard-line Revolutionary Guards Corps? The reason to be worried is that the moderates don’t control Iran’s nuclear program or its military/intelligence complex; the hard-line minority does. The reason to be hopeful is the majority’s aspiration to reintegrate with the world forced the hard-liners to grudgingly accept this deal.
A lot will depend also on Saudi Arabia moderating the anti-modernist trend it imposed on Sunni Islam. On Tuesday the Middle East Media Research Institute released a translation of a TV interview by the Saudi author Turki al-Hamad about the extremist discourse prevalent in Saudi Arabia. “Who serves as fuel for ISIS?” he asked. “Our own youth. What drives our youth to join ISIS? The prevailing culture, the culture that is planted in people’s minds. It is our youth who carry out bombings. … You can see (in ISIS videos) the volunteers in Syria ripping up their Saudi passports.”
That’s why another factor determining if 2015 is a break with 1979 or a multiplier of it will be the energy revolution in America — efficiency, renewables and fracking — and whether it keeps putting downward pressure on oil prices. Give me five years of $25-a-barrel oil and you’ll see reformers strengthened in Iran and Saudi Arabia; they’ll both have to tap their people instead of oil.
But while that oil price decline is necessary, it is not sufficient. Both regimes also have to stop looking for dignity and legitimacy in combating the other — and Israel — and find it, instead, in elevating their own people. Saudi Arabia’s attempt to bomb Iranian influence out of Yemen is sheer madness; the Saudis are bombing rubble into rubble. Will Iran spend its windfall from this nuclear deal trying to dominate the Arab world? Maybe. But Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen today are like a giant Superfund toxic cleanup site. Iran wants to own that? It will sap more of its strength than strengthen it. We know.
On July 9, Agence France-Presse reported that the International Monetary Fund estimated Saudi Arabia, whose population tripled since 1975, would run a budget deficit this year exceeding “$130 billion, the largest in the kingdom’s history,” and “to finance spending Riyadh has already withdrawn $52.3 billion from its fiscal reserves in the first five months of the year.” Iran’s population has doubled since 1979, and 60 percent of its residents are under 30 and it has 20 percent unemployment. Last April, Issa Kalantari, a former Iranian agriculture minister, warned that because of dwindling water resources, and over-exploitation, if Iran doesn’t radically change its water usage “50 million people — 70 percent of Iranians — will have no choice but to leave the country,” Al-Monitor reported.
Nukes are hardly the only threats for this region. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia desperately need to make 2015 the end of the 1979 era. It would be fanciful to predict that they will — and utterly realistic to predict the destruction that will visit both if they don’t.

Beheading the Behemoth

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
July 30, 2015
Even radical pacifists would have trouble not rejoicing at the death of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba founder Malik Ishaq, who along with the reported 13 other terrorists, was killed in an encounter early Wednesday morning. That the BBC quoted Afghan officials as claiming yesterday that the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar has been dead for over a couple of years – a claim that is being investigated – will give everyone more cause to rejoice. That’s two massive heads of the South Asian Islamist monster beheaded on the same day, along with senior LeJ leader Ghulam Rasul Shah who was among the 13 that were killed yesterday as well.
The extreme absolutists might condemn the ‘staged encounter’ and the extra-judicial killing. But those that have a sprinkling of realist topping to their principled rigidity, would accept the impossibility of mustering testimonies against Ishaq. Let’s not forget that this is a man who has been acquitted over 100 times after charges of terrorism and homicide.
The claim that the judiciary was helpless amidst lack of witnesses, while overstating the institution’s intent (or clout) with regards to terrorism cases, does depict the ground realities. However, the extrajudicial killings of leading sectarian terrorists, despite being condemnable on principle, do suggest that Pakistan is well on the way to targeting the monsters that it has fed and bred for the past three decades.
Considering the establishment’s role in brewing militants as strategic assets over the years, there will always be scepticism vis-à-vis the state going after Islamist militancy, despite Operation Zarb-e-Azb being over a year old and the Karachi drive in full swing. After all, the army went after the Taliban only after they were identified as the military institution’s enemy, despite being an existential threat to Pakistan for over the past decade at least. And the political undertones of the Karachi operation have been reverberating over the past couple of months, manifested impeccably by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s epic rant last month.
Optimists might argue that Ishaq’s killing could finally signal the state’s no-nonsense approach to religious terrorism in the country, while the cynics might claim that the LeJ chief was no longer beneficial for the establishment as a militant asset, and hence was disposed of. After all, Abdul Aziz and his ISIS supporting goons in Lal Masjid have yet to be touched, despite being a few kilometres away from both the GHQ and Prime Minister House. Not to mention self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Quadri safely residing inside Adiala Jail after being sent to the gallows, with the terrorism charge being dropped by the Islamabad High Court.
In fact one of the major ‘pro-establishment’ arguments over lack of action against Ishaq has been that the state wanted to keep him imprisoned, where his actions can be monitored, and that executing him – judicially or otherwise – would result in a massive backlash on the streets. A similar argument is used to justify Abdul Aziz’s apparent impunity from law or to vindicate the resistance to the Quadri case reaching its logical conclusion.
But does Ishaq’s killing mean that the establishment is willing to accept that it has the wherewithal to counter, if not forestall, the expected backlash? Are things finally falling into place for the state to revise all those positions? Both a quixotic case and a melancholy one can be scribed, but the limited space would allow one to present the ‘delusional’ hypothesis only.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb coincided with the Sino-Pak signatures on the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project of immense economic and geopolitical importance for both the countries. Before pen was put to the CPEC MoUs, China had conspicuously voiced concerns about its Uighur militants being linked with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, in meetings with both the military personnel and government officials.
CPEC cannot reap benefits for either country should any form of militancy exist in any part of Pakistan. That the ante was upped in the Balochistan military operation was a corollary of the state’s clampdown on militants. However, with multiple CPEC routes traversing all four provinces, the state can no longer pretend that Punjab is any less volatile, especially considering that an imperialistic Islamist ideology has flourished in South Punjab, the separatism of Baloch militants pales in front of which.
Furthermore, the Iran nuclear deal has made Tehran a lucrative prospect for commerce, energy sharing and strategic partnership. In addition to the Iran-Pakistan pipeline and potential oil barrels, Tehran can join Islamabad in a collective security and trade mechanism swathed by the CPEC. For Iran, Pakistan’s anti-Shia militant organisations, and cross border terrorism through Balochistan has been a major concern – one that might have been resoundingly addressed through Ishaq’s execution.
Pakistan hosting the Afghan government’s talks with the Afghan Taliban also epitomises amelioration in Pak-Afghan ties and Kabul’s role in the aforementioned mechanism. For all this to materialise though, the volatile troika of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan needs to counter their respective insurgencies. And Pakistan might just have started doing precisely that, even if under Chinese supervision.
With the Supreme Court suspending Asia Bibi’s death penalty over the blasphemy allegation, and the law and interior ministries mulling reform for the blasphemy law, the right signals are being sent as far as countering religious fanaticism is concerned. While it would be beyond delusional to assume that all state institutions are seamlessly working in tandem with a common goal in sight, it would be contemptuous to claim that the state is displaying no positive intent at all.
Even so, what needs to be understood is that while chopping off the tip of the iceberg – the sectarian militants – is the logical place to start, the sectarian behemoth can’t be killed through decapitation alone. Anti-Shia sentiments persist among the so-called moderate citizens of Pakistan as well, and that’s where the roots for sectarianism can be found. It’s important to behead the monster when it’s about to eat you alive, but chopping off Takfiri roots is imperative lest the behemoth grow new heads.
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a member of staff.

What Does Islam Say About Being Gay?

By Mustafa Akyol
July 28, 2015
 On June 29, Turkey’s 12th Gay Pride Parade was held on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Avenue. Thousands marched joyfully carrying rainbow flags until the police began dispersing them with water cannons. The authorities, as has become their custom since the Gezi Park protests of June 2013, once again decided not to allow a demonstration by secular Turks who don’t fit into their vision of the ideal citizen.
More worrying news came a week later when posters were put up in Ankara with a chilling instruction: “If you see those carrying out the People of Lot’s dirty work, kill the doer and the done!” The “People of Lot” was a religious reference to gays, and the instruction to kill them on sight was attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. The group that put the posters up, the so-called Islamic Defense Youth defended its message by asserting: “What? Are you offended by the words of our prophet?!”
All of this suggests that both Turkey and the Muslim world need to engage in some soul-searching when it comes to tolerance for their gay compatriots.
Of course this intolerance is not exclusive to either Turks or Muslims. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Turkey scores slightly better on measures of gay rights when compared with some nearby Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Armenia and Ukraine. Indeed, Turkey’s secular laws don’t penalize sexual orientation, and some out-of-the-closet L.G.B.T. icons have long been popular as artists, singers or fashion designers. Among them are two of the most popular Turkish entertainers of the past half-century: The late Zeki Muren was flamboyantly gay and the singer Bulent Ersoy is famously transsexual. Their eccentricity has apparently added to their popularity.
But beyond the entertainment industry, the traditional mainstream Islamic view on homosexuality produces intolerance in Turkey toward gays and creates starker problems in Muslim nations that apply Shariah. In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan or Afghanistan, homosexuality is a serious offense that can bring imprisonment, corporal punishment or even the death penalty. Meanwhile, Islamic State militants implement the most extreme interpretation of Shariah by throwing gays from rooftops.
At the heart of the Islamic view on homosexuality lies the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is narrated in the Quran, too. According to scripture, the Prophet Lot had warned his people of “immorality,” for they did “approach men with desire, instead of women.” In return, the people warned by Lot tried to expel their prophet from the city, and even tried to sexually abuse the angels who came down to Lot in the guise of men. Consequently, God destroyed the people of Lot with a colossal natural disaster, only to save the prophet and a few fellow believers.
The average conservative Muslim takes this story as a justification to stigmatize gays, but there is an important question that deserves consideration: Did the people of Lot receive divine punishment for being homosexual, or for attacking Lot and his heavenly guests?
The even more significant nuance is that while the Quran narrates this divine punishment for Sodom and Gomorrah, it decrees no earthly punishment for homosexuality — unlike the Old Testament, which clearly decrees that homosexuals “are to be put to death.”
Medieval Islamic thinkers inferred an earthly punishment by considering homosexuality as a form of adultery. But significant names among them, such as the eighth-century scholar Abu Hanifa, the founder of the popular Hanafi School of jurisprudence, argued that since a homosexual relationship did not produce offspring with an unknown father, it couldn’t be considered adultery.
The real Islamic basis for punishing homosexuality is the Hadiths, or sayings, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. (The same is true for punishments on apostasy, heresy, impiety, or “insults” of Islam: None come from the Quran; all are from certain Hadiths.) But the Hadiths were written down almost two centuries after the prophet lived, and their authenticity has been repeatedly questioned — as early as the ninth century by the scholar Imam Nesai — and they can be questioned anew today. Moreover, there is no record of the prophet actually having anyone punished for homosexuality.
Such jurisprudential facts might help Muslims today to develop a more tolerant attitude toward gays, as some progressive Islamic thinkers in Turkey, such as Ihsan Eliacik, are encouraging. What is condemned in the story of Lot is not sexual orientation, according to Mr. Eliacik, but sexual aggression. People’s private lives are their own business, he argues, whereas the public Muslim stance should be to defend gays when they are persecuted or discriminated against — because Islam stands with the downtrodden.
It is also worth recalling that the Ottoman Caliphate, which ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries and which the current Turkish government claims to emulate, was much more open-minded on this issue. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites. The Ottoman sultans, arguably, were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World.
Despite such arguments, the majority of Muslims are likely to keep seeing homosexuality as something sinful, if public opinion polls are any indication. Yet those Muslims who insist on condemning gays should recall that according to Islam, there are many sins, including arrogance, which the Quran treats as among the gravest moral transgressions. For Turks and other Muslims, it could be our own escape from the sin of arrogance to stop stigmatizing others for their behaviour and focus instead on refining ourselves.
Mustafa Akyol is the author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

The Terror of Fighting Terror

By Rafia Zakaria
29 July, 2015
ON Saturday, July 25, The New York Times published a report on the conditions in Pakistan’s covert internment centres where those suspected of affiliation with the Pakistani Taliban are detained. Those incarcerated in these special prisons usually return dead or do not return at all. According to the report, their relatives have filed 2,100 petitions in the Peshawar High Court. Most have not produced any results; thousands hence occupy the murky category of being ‘disappeared’ persons. Sometimes, when a body is returned, the report says, there is pressure to refuse an autopsy or undertake a quick burial.
The report alleges there is little public outcry in Pakistan on this issue. Indeed, the metric on which to judge outrage in a maimed country, whose citizens daily witness a variable cast of catastrophe, is an elusive one. Whether or not they are outraged, Pakistanis are aware of the haplessness of the category of the ‘disappeared’, whose grief-stricken relatives appear now and again, holding placards in thin lines at important intersections: a tearful widow, a sad child. Their presence is the wallpaper of Pakistan’s terror-ridden moment: if not defining the décor of our dismayed dominion, they present a constant backdrop. In times of terror, truth is elusive and justice even more so. Are terrorism suspects almost or nearly terrorists, the lay reader pondering the condition wonders. Questions and doubt are good at staunching outrage.
It is not, however, a solely Pakistani problem. The irony of The New York Times report was not the deficiencies of truth: extra-judicial killings, torture, unwarranted condemnations, lack of accountability and vengeful resurrection of executions are all crude and unjust realities of the Pakistani present. The odd twist in the report lay instead in the implication that the condition of having become terrible in the fight against terror was Pakistan’s exclusive condition. In one illustrative instance, the report notes that the US State Department has continued to supply Pakistan with weapons and military aid despite being entirely aware of the country’s poor human rights record. The binary was the usual one: how could the US with its avowed commitment to transparency not have imposed sanctions on practices that are unjust and violations of international and human rights law?
In terms of its moral assumptions, the report, then, relies on an old binary: the good United States failing in its responsibility to properly police wayward Pakistan. It is this portion of the argument that is troublesome; if anything, the US has been a frontrunner in championing the precept that to fight terror, you have to become terrible. Days before this particular article was published, another sorry chapter in the US’s own inability to deliver either transparency or justice was in full view. In a speech last week, President Obama announced (yet again) that he was going to make an effort to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison, where hundreds of prisoners still remain over a decade after 9/11. The statement was met with sighs and snickers: Obama, everyone knows, promised to shut down the prison in one of his first speeches; that was years ago. Those disappeared prisoners, much like the ones in Pakistan, continue to languish; and even if the prison is closed there is no guarantee that those not charged with a crime will actually be released.
To point out the failings of the US in relation to illegal imprisonments, torture, lack of transparency and custodial deaths is not, however, an expiration of Pakistan’s dismal internment of its citizens without trial. What is notable is the fact that a terror-fighting superpower (the US) and a terror-afflicted wannabe power (Pakistan) are both flouting the rule of law and the requirements of justice in their efforts to apprehend terrorists. It is this cumulative trend, whetted and abetted by both, that is responsible for not simply Pakistan’s unknown numbers of disappeared persons. The decision to fight terror with terror, to justify torture, amplify secrecy and dissolve procedural law, hence has been a cumulative one. Both have birthed black sites and tortured bodies; both have described these acts as necessary; both have left tearful and tattered families without answers and without hope.
The cost of terrorism is often counted in bodies; but as Guantanamo lingers on and the families of the disappeared in Pakistan wait for news and hope against bodies, its moral cost must also be assessed. If there is little public outrage in Pakistan, there is a similar silence in the US. The publics, like the polity, have been convinced that terrorism must be fought with terror, that the ravages of bombings and the death of innocents require a similarly unabated thirst for blood. Apprehensions shrouded in secrecy must be made, bodies hung upside down and strapped to water boards; new techniques of coercion must be developed. If the Pakistani public knows and does nothing, the American public — equally duped — does the same. The issue has become so banal that a recent publication of the ‘torture playlist’ of songs played by interrogators to break detainees barely caused a stir.
In everything else the Pakistani public opposes the US; in staying silent over the flouting of law and forgetting easily the wrongly imprisoned and the routinely tortured, it has joined hands with the imperial ignominy it otherwise denounces. The curse of terror then is not only the dead children, the dread of crowded places, the lingering fear of the belted bomber but also the taint it casts on those trying to fight it. The loss of moral power inherent in the abandonment of law, the secret persecution of possible suspects, the deaths of those that did deliver information or evidence, have birthed new criminals. Sometimes it seems the fight is not of good against evil but only between the varying flavours of depravity.
Rafia Zakaria is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

Is Domestic Violence Less Prevalent In Arranged Marriages?

By Murtaza Haider
July 30th, 2015
Many Muslim societies believe domestic violence against women to be less prevalent in arranged marriages. Empirical evidence from Pakistan, however, paints a rather nuanced picture.
For centuries, parents of young Muslim women have forced their daughters into arranged marriages, often with their cousins, to protect land holdings or conform to their tribal customs.
Parents conveniently assume, and the brides are made to believe, that by marrying their cousins, young women will not be subject to domestic violence, that strong familial ties will guard against such violence.
Marital Bliss Or Marital Blisters?
The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) in 2012-13 interviewed over 13,500 ever-married women between the ages of 15 and 49. The USAID-sponsored survey provides a treasure-trove of data on the health and well being of women. The survey revealed that one in three ever-married women experienced physical violence since age 15, whereas one in five women experienced abuse in the year leading to the survey.
But physical violence is just one manifestation of abuse. Women also suffered emotional abuse at the hands of their spouses. Since the age of 15, two out of five women in Pakistan suffered, at least once, physical and/or emotional abuse at the hands of their spouses.
One in three women suffered the same in the year before the survey. Even pregnant women were not spared, one in 10 women suffered abuse while being pregnant.
For decades, married women in Pakistan have suffered in silence. More than half of the women whose husbands abused them never sought help or shared their sufferings with others. In their ignorance, the parents perhaps thought their daughters enjoyed marital bliss. However, domestic violence left them with marital blisters instead.
Family Ties and Family Trees
The PDHS revealed that most women in Pakistan are married to their first cousins; only two in five women wedded unrelated spouses.
A relatively larger number of women married cousins on their father’s side than those on their mother’s side. This tendency is likely the result of family’s preferences to keep the agricultural land and other assets within the family even after the young women were married to their first cousins on the father’s side. The same does not hold for marrying cousins on the mother’s side.
Dr. Nisha Malhotra, who teaches at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia, is curious to find out if cousin marriages protect women from spousal abuse.
Working with the PDHS, she found that the answer to this question is not that straightforward because the incidence of cousin marriages are not uniformly distributed across the urban-rural divide or are spread the same way across income strata.
Dr. Malhotra found cousin marriages to be more pronounced in rural areas where they accounted for 61 per cent of all unions compared to the 50 per cent of all urban unions.
And, whereas, only 32 per cent women were married to unrelated spouses in rural areas, a much larger proportion of urban women (45 per cent) had a similar union. Again, agricultural land is more commonly found in rural settings, which may be the reason why cousin marriages are more pronounced in rural settings.
Another reason could be the fact that villages are often established by rather insular communities (bradaries) where a large number of inhabitants are direct relatives.
Source: Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, 2012-13. Drawn by Dr. Malhotra.
Source: Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, 2012-13. Drawn by Dr. Malhotra.
An interesting picture emerges when we compare the incidence of domestic abuse for the types of spousal relations. The following figure presents a breakdown of domestic violence.
We see that 28 per cent of women married to unrelated men suffered physical (domestic) violence. A slightly lower fraction of women married to first cousin’s on their father’s side (26 per cent) suffered the same.
Surprisingly, a significantly larger proportion of women married to second cousins suffered physical abuse than those who married unrelated men. We see similar trends for emotional abuse.
Based on the preceding graphic and discussion should we conclude that cousin marriages do not necessarily lower women’s odds of being subject to domestic abuse?
Not so fast, says Dr. Malhotra. Since well-off, highly educated, and urban women are more likely to have married unrelated men, women’s odds of experiencing domestic violence should be estimated after one has controlled the factors mentioned above.
Dr. Malhotra estimated a statistical model where she controlled for income, education, and other related factors. She found that when we control for other mitigating factors, the odds of a woman to experience domestic violence are lower for those who married first cousins. The same was not true for those married to second cousins.
Despite the evidence showing less infrequent abuse in first cousin marriages, women should not be forced into marriages against their wishes so that they may avoid spousal abuse. In a just society, people are kind to all, and not just to their blood relatives.
Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

APJ Abdul Kalam: Philosopher-Scientist and a Great Inspiration

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Jul 28, 2015

APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, was a man of integrity. Intellectually, he was scientific in temper and morally, a very humble person. He was born into a poor South Indian family which could not even afford to pay his school fees. But he worked very hard and continued with his education, and consequently went on to become a highly respected aerospace scientist in the country.
 Abdul Kalam was not “born with a silver spoon in his mouth;” yet he was born with a great “incentive spoon” which was responsible for his tremendous success. His self-motivation and high ideals helped him, and he rose to the highest office of the country to become the president of India. Kalam’s life has a very significant lesson, that is, that people’s categorisation into rich and poor or haves and have-nots is unrealistic. The real categorisation is that people are either actual haves or potential haves. Those who today apparently belong to the category of have-nots can convert their potential into actuality, and thus enter the category of haves.
 Kalam once said that ‘If a country is to be corruption-free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, mother and teacher.’ This statement is a correct analysis of nation-building, because a person develops his personality in his formative period, during which he is under the supervision of his parents and teachers. If these three members of society resolve to guide the child in the right direction, then within one generation the whole situation of India will undergo a drastic change. 
 Regarding youth, Kalam said: ‘My message, especially to young people, is to have courage to think differently, to invent, to travel the unexplored path, discover the impossible and to overcome problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards.’ If we express these qualities in one word, it can be said that young people should make ‘excellence’ their goal; they should not accept anything less than striving for the excellent. In doing so, not only will they reach great heights of success, but will also be able to reform society along constructive lines.
 It is said that even amidst his tight schedule, Kalam found time to put pen to paper, almost every day. This is a very creative habit because if a person restricts himself only to routine office work, he will experience intellectual stagnation. However, if he makes time for reading and writing, his intellectual development will go on unhindered.
 Once, Kalam said, ‘India has a message for the world that religion could be transformed into a mighty spiritual force.’ This is without doubt a realistic statement, because India has traditionally been a country of high spiritual values. If India develops in spirituality, it will certainly become a lighthouse of spirituality for the world.
 When Kalam was president, a reporter who was interviewing him was referring to him as “Your Excellency”. Kalam cut him short, saying, ‘Call me Kalam.’ This is the key to Kalam’s personality—he was modest to the core. His message  is: Be modest and you will achieve success.

Senate Report Leaves Bitter Taste With Canadian Muslims

By Amira Elghawaby
July 10, 2015
Reading this week’s Senate interim report on countering terrorism was spit-out-your-cereal unbelievable.
Thankfully most Canadian Muslims were likely observing their Ramadan fasts when news of it broke; but it’s enough to make anyone lose their appetite.
The report is contradictory in places, nonsensical in others, and at times based on unsubstantiated claims. None of this should come as much surprise to those who watched the at-times farcical Senate hearings which led up to it.
A parade of pseudo-experts on national security, including activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who has never lived in Canada but was asked to pontificate about the country’s Muslim communities, were woven into a line-up that did include some legitimate experts. They were not enough to save the further discrediting of what is supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought.
The report’s recommendations in fact speak to a prejudicial and colonial mindset among those in high places and should alarm all Canadians.
More than suggesting imams be vetted and certified by the state – clearly discriminatory and patronizing – the report further suggests that community members and leaders need to be vetted as well. In other words, Canadian Muslims need to receive a state-sponsored stamp of approval before participating in dialogue with our government.
Considering the government’s track record when it comes to silencing dissent, with its infamous list of “enemies,” it’s pretty obvious who would or wouldn’t be approved. Good Muslims are those who accept the government’s talking points and refrain from critique. Bad Muslims are those who both critique and march to their own tune.
Once upon a time, colonizers pitted the colonized against one another in similar fashion, rewarding those who were pliant with recognition and relegating the others to the peripheries. These dynamics have no place in a modern democracy.
As our organization and other prominent Canadian Muslim institutions and individuals have experienced, silencing critical Muslims doesn’t simply mean they’re not on the Prime Minister’s Ramadan dinner guest list.
No, silencing Canadian Muslims in this country means accusing them of terrorist leanings, sympathies, thoughts, dreams, what have you. And it means that if they have the wherewithal to defend their reputation against such slander, the government uses taxpayer dollars to fend off their claims.
But even that shouldn’t be allowed to happen, according to another cringe-worthy Senate recommendation. Public officials should be free to defame Canadian Muslims. The report says that: “Government should encourage provincial governments to implement legislation that protect Canadians who are participating in the public discourse from vexatious litigation.”
This would be amusing if it wasn’t coming from the Senate of Canada. Even droller is the suggestion that the government of Canada should police speech. Someone needs to remind Senators that we live in a democracy and that the Criminal Code already provides for the prosecution of anyone promoting hatred, or terrorism. Even speech deemed offensive is protected.
Throughout the hearings on Bill C-51, experts and civil-society representatives advised the government that stricter laws and more invasive policing would not necessarily achieve the goal of eradicating the threat of extremist violence.
What many did learn is that Canadians risk losing cherished civil liberties in this law-and-order strategy that appears to be more about fear and bluster than about protecting Canadians.
This latest report takes this disturbing zero-sum game one step further: deliberately alienating and marginalizing the vast majority of Canadian Muslims and their institutions and making it that much harder for law-enforcement agencies to do their work on a basis of mutual trust and respect.
Given the recent white-supremacist shooting south of the border, and our own cases of right-wing extremism in Canada, it’s startling that the Senate completely ignores what expert testimony and law-enforcement briefings indicate is also a real and significant threat.
The Senate’s interim report is little more than a poorly disguised propaganda piece timed for election season. It’s not a serious analysis of what Canadians require “to counter the terrorist threat in Canada.” At best, it’s a missed opportunity. At worst, it’s a distasteful setback.
Amira Elghawaby is the communications director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).