Friday, October 30, 2015

Religion’s View on Earthquakes

 By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
October 29, 2015
When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck at the heart of Nepal in April this year, leaving over 9,000 dead and injuring over 2,300, orthodox Buddhists and Hindus blamed karma and the ‘sinfulness’ of people for the disaster. Rituals were organised to please the deities, with many focusing on Brahma, who ‘created the world’ and hence ‘can save lives as well’. Orthodox Buddhists sought Avalokiteshvara’s help with the ‘heart mantra’ Om mane padme hum ubiquitously recited.
Clearly, there was a significant chunk of the Nepalese population that was busy pleasing ostensibly infuriated deities, when a lot of that effort could’ve been dedicated to work on minimising the damage through awareness related to earthquake aftermaths. This was despite the fact that neither Buddhism nor Hinduism is monotheistic, unlike the Abrahamic religions, wherein an omnipotent deity takes the credit, or blame, for everything.
When the 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan, India and Pakistan on Monday, reminding many of the horrors of 2005, many Islamic scholars similarly queued up to scorn at the ‘sinfulness’ of the masses and warned against the wrath of Allah. An ‘investigative journalist’ of a top media house in Pakistan asked people to repent because wherever “sins become a norm… earthquakes are the ultimate result”. Ironically, the same tweet went on to ask the media to ‘educate people’ about earthquakes.
Islamic scriptures, much like any other religious text, present an antediluvian view on natural disasters, dubbing them a manifestation of Allah’s anger and punishment for sins. Surah An-Nahl, verse 45, for example reads: “Do then those who devise evil plots feel secure that Allah will not sink them into the earth, or that the torment will not seize them from directions they perceive not?”
The phenomenon and raison d’etre of natural disasters like earthquakes are discussed in many other chapters of the Quran, including Surat Az-Zalzalah (The Chapter of the Earthquake).
Similarly, it isn’t uncommon in the Muslim world for the Islamic clergy to cite hadiths and blame the ‘immodesty of women’ as being directly responsible for earthquakes. Women ‘wearing perfumes’ and being ‘immodestly dressed’ are accused of invoking ‘Allah’s rage’ who in turn shakes the earth to cause destruction as punishment. ‘Adultery’, alcoholism and listening to music are also cited as earthquake-causing acts by numerous Islamic scholars.
“Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” said Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi in 2010 following a prediction by the then Iran president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that an earthquake would hit Tehran. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes,” was Sedighi’s answer to earthquakes, something that has been echoed my many religious scholars in Pakistan and the Muslim world.
The Jewish Talmud makes similar claims: “Elijah [the prophet] of blessed memory asked R. Nehorai, “Why do earthquakes occur?” He said to him, “On account of the sins of [those who do not separate] heave offerings and tithes [from their produce].” It further reserves special mention for ‘homosexual acts’: “[The earth quakes] on account of the sin of homosexual acts. God said, ‘You made your genitals throb in an unnatural act. By your life, I shall shake the earth on account of [the act of] this person’”.
The New Testament also creates the image of a vengeful deity in Luke 21:11, “…and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”
While the ‘religiously inclined’ resorted to the millennia old tradition of stroking fear on behalf of the ‘Almighty’, a counternarrative rebuked the ‘mullahs’ for spread misinformation and insulting the victims – most of whom were poor people – by accusing them of being sinners. However, what this counternarrative lacks – albeit understandably so – is the acknowledgement that the outmoded views on the earthquakes perpetuated by the ‘mullahs’ trace their origin in religious scriptures. Islamic clerics blame ‘sins’ or ‘immodest women’ for earthquakes, not because of a myth or commonly misunderstood tradition – unless one deems religious scriptures as such – but simply because that is precisely what is being taught to the clergymen via Islamic text.
This is not to suggest that eradication, or overhaul, of religious scriptures is needed to overcome this spread of ignorance. All that is needed is the establishment of a mechanism wherein whenever science and religion come at loggerheads – as they regularly do – preference needs to be given to the relevant authority.
Everyone who’s a part of the counternarrative that rebuffs religion’s take on natural disasters – and not necessarily by calling out religion – needs to embrace and propagate this simple reality: that the science depicted in all religious scriptures is in accordance with the era and the location wherein the text is proclaimed to have been revealed. In simple words, the only way the counternarrative will successfully replace the religious narrative in the long run is if it is backed with the factual assertion of the scriptures’ datedness.
This is precisely how other religious communities have successfully dealt with the perpetual war between orthodox religion and science, and reformed their viewpoint on religion without necessitating the complete abandonment of the ideology they were born into. The problem that’s plaguing progress in the Muslim world, and preventing ‘reform in Islam’, is the identical adherence to Islamic scriptures, of both the moderate and radical Muslims, as the infallible and eternal word of the deity. Once the inertial resistance to reform and revisit ‘the perfect text’ is overcome, progressive ideals and contemporary ideas will naturally spread in the Muslim world.
There are extremists, conservatives and clergypersons in all religions all over the world vying to propagate primitive ideas that contradict science and modern-day sensibilities. The reason why they’re more prevalent in the Muslims world can’t solely be pinned down to socio-economic conditions, or ramifications of war – wherein religion has played its due part. The disparity in the theological viewpoints between ‘moderates’ of other religious communities and the Muslim world is a major cause fueling the aforementioned inertia against intellectual progress.
Religion, when considered a personal belief-system and not a divine rallying cause, can – and does – help many around the world overcome tragedies like earthquakes. Psychologists around the world have confirmed through multiple researches that the belief in a deity significantly reduces chances of stress and depression and can generate more optimism. What the progressive-minded in the Muslim world need to introduce are ideas and policies that makes religion an individual’s prerogative, which should not in any way be a part of governmental, judicial or societal policymaking.

Ali al-Nimr,the Shia Cleric: Sentenced to Be Crucified

By Nicholas Kristof
OCT. 29, 2015
Any day now, our Saudi Arabian allies may behead and crucify a young man named Ali al-Nimr.
His appeals following his court sentence for this grisly execution have been exhausted, so guards may lead Nimr to a public square and hack off his head with a sword as onlookers jeer. Then, following Saudi protocol for crucifixion, they would hang his body as a warning to others.
Nimr’s offense? He was arrested at age 17 for participating in anti-government protests. The government has said he attacked police officers and rioted, but the only known evidence is a confession apparently extracted under torture that left him a bloody mess.
“When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognize him,” his mother, Nusra al-Ahmed, told The Guardian. “I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not.”
Nimr was recently moved to solitary confinement in preparation for execution. In Britain, where the sentence has received attention, the foreign secretary says he does “not expect” it to be carried out. But Nimr’s family fears execution could come any day.
Saudi Arabia’s medieval criminal justice system also executes “witches,” and flogs and imprisons gay people.
It’s time for a frank discussion about our ally Saudi Arabia and its role legitimizing fundamentalism and intolerance in the Islamic world. Western governments have tended to bite their tongues because they see Saudi Arabia as a pillar of stability in a turbulent region — but I’m not sure that’s right.
Saudi Arabia has supported Wahhabi madrasas in poor countries in Africa and Asia, exporting extremism and intolerance. Saudi Arabia also exports instability with its brutal war in Yemen, intended to check what it sees as Iranian influence. Saudi airstrikes have killed thousands, and the blockading of ports has been even more devastating. Some Yemeni children are starving, and 80 percent of Yemenis now need assistance.
There’s also an underlying hypocrisy in Saudi behavior. This is a country that sentenced a 74-year-old British man to 350 lashes for possessing alcohol (some British reports say he may be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia following international outrage), yet I’ve rarely seen as much hard liquor as at Riyadh parties attended by government officials.
A Saudi prince, Majed Abdulaziz al-Saud, was just arrested in Los Angeles in a $37 million mansion he had rented, after allegedly drinking heavily, hiring escorts, using cocaine, terrorizing women and threatening to kill people.
“I am a prince,” he declared, according to an account in The Los Angeles Times. “And I do what I want.”
Saudi Arabia isn’t the enemy, but it is a problem. It could make so much positive difference in the Islamic world if it used its status to soothe Sunni-Shiite tensions and encourage tolerance. For a time, under King Abdullah, it seemed that the country was trying to reform, but now under King Salman it has stalled.
In effect, Saudi Arabia legitimizes fundamentalism, religious discrimination, intolerance and the oppression of women. Saudi women not only can’t drive, but are also told by some clerics that they mustn’t wear seatbelts for fear of showing the outlines of their bodies. Saudi Arabia inflames the Sunni-Shiite divide and sets a pernicious example of intolerance by banning churches.
Even Iran lately has mocked Saudi Arabia for mistreating women — and when misogynistic Iranian hard-liners can claim the high ground on women’s rights, you’ve got a problem.
I’ve defended Islam from critics like Bill Maher who, as I see it, demonize a diverse faith of 1.6 billion Muslims because a small percentage are violent extremists. But it’s incumbent on those of us who object to this demonization to speak up against genuine extremism. Sadly, Saudi Arabia is a gift to Islamophobes; it does far more damage to the reputation of Islam than any blaspheming cartoonists.
Granted, many Saudis are pushing for reform. One bright young writer, Raif Badawi, 31, called eloquently for women’s rights, education reform and freedom of thought, and Saudi Arabia has sentenced him to 10 years in prison, a $267,000 fine and a flogging of 1,000 lashes (50 at a time, with one session administered so far). His wife, Ensaf Haidar, tells me that his flogging is to resume soon after a long suspension, and that she fears he will not survive the entire lashing.
The United States government has largely averted its eyes from all this, at least in public, merely expressing deep concern about the crucifixion sentence even as it provides weaponry to enable the Saudi assault on Yemen.
That’s realpolitik. Saudi Arabia has oil and influence, and the Obama administration needed to cuddle with Saudi Arabia to win the Iranian nuclear deal. But now that that deal has been achieved, should we still be silent?
We do neither ourselves nor the Saudi people any favors when we wink at an ally that crucifies its people.

Anti-Muslim Paranoia Could Still Derail Myanmar’s Journey To True Democracy

By Martin Woollacott
29 October 2015
Race and religion are casting a dark shadow over Myanmar as it moves toward critical elections next month. The elections would have been difficult enough for the country if confined to the issues of what degree of democracy can now be introduced, and what role should be played by the iconic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But it has been made more divisive and dangerous by an insidious emphasis on national identity that threatens to further open up the fault line between ethnic Burmans and the country’s minorities, in particular the Muslim community.
A campaign to portray Aung San Suu Kyi as pro-Muslim, and to label her National League for Democracy the “Muslim party” is under way. Its public face is thePatriotic Association of Myanmar, or Ma Ba Tha, a powerful organisation of the Buddhist clergy that earlier this month staged a huge rally in Yangon to celebrate the recent passage of laws ostensibly regulating marriage and contraception for all citizens but in fact intended to stop Muslims having large families, marrying more than one wife, or marrying Buddhist women. The laws are based on the fantasy that these things are happening on any scale – even if that were the case, they would be unenforceable. But they have helped conjure up a supposed Muslim menace to Burma’s Buddhist values.
A few weeks ago the election commission disqualified more than 100 parliamentary candidates, most of them members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the north-western state of Rakhine. Nearly one million Rohingya were deprived of the vote earlier this year on the grounds they could not prove their families had been long resident in Myanmar, and riots there in recent years have led to a massive and brutal displacement of population.
The monks are widely believed to enjoy support from a military establishment that thinks anti-Muslim scaremongering will take votes away from the NLD, heavily favoured to win the election on 8 November, perhaps even keeping its MPs under 50% of seats in parliament and weakening it in post-election manoeuvring. An NLD advisor notes such tricks as a government-leaning paper prominently printing shots of Aung Sang Suu Kyi greeting Muslim elders while neglecting to take or use shots showing her with Buddhist clergy on the same occasion. President Thein Sein and other officials, on the other hand, are routinely shown greeting senior Buddhist monks.
The building-up of this “Muslim invasion” scare has reached the point where the NLD is fielding no Muslim candidates in spite of having a significant number of Muslim members. That may be either prudent or cowardly; it is probably both, and certainly an indication of how serious the problem could be.
How are ordinary Burmans going to react, when they come to vote, to this effort to cast the election as a fight for the Burman Buddhist soul? U Ko Ni, a leading Muslim member of the NLD, says that, “It is only a small group among Burmese Buddhists spreading these untruths. Most Buddhists don’t agree.” But, he complains, “The authorities are not taking action against those who spread this hate speech”. He defended the decision to field no Muslim candidates by saying that to do so would play into the hands of those who claim “the NLD is a Muslim party, and very soon Myanmar will be a Muslim country”.
He implies that most voters will see through such nonsense. The truth is that the anti-Muslim campaign poses a painful dilemma for Aung San Suu Kyi: if she were to loudly oppose it, the propagandists would twist her words. So she has chosen a careful line, issuing a statement, for example, deploring events in Rakhine statebut generally avoiding Muslim issues.
There is a Burmese understanding of history in which their state was stolen from them by the British, who then let in foreign predators – Hindu and Muslim Indians, Jews, Chinese, and other Europeans – as well as empowering hitherto unimportant minorities such as the Shan and other hill peoples. It is true that the British imperial project interrupted a Burmese one, which was in the process of conquering and absorbing other states and peoples. Resentment at their historical displacement and feelings of superiority toward other ethnicities and religions have shaped the military establishment, but how far they inform popular attitudes now is difficult to know.
Many would argue that Myanmar cannot have an effective democracy unless attitudes of this kind are shelved rather than pumped up to sustain a chauvinistic populism. What the military may ultimately hope for is something along Malaysian lines, in which a dominant Burman party rules in alliance with junior partners from other ethnicities. What the NLD embodies, on the other hand, is the hope that a Myanmar democracy will be about all citizens voting on the basis of principles and policies, not on ethnicity.
It can be argued that military rule came about precisely because ethnic Burmans in positions of power could not cope with the diversity of their real country. For decades Myanmar suffered under that rule, as inefficient as it was oppressive, sliding toward economic ruin, politically fettered, closed off from the world. Then came a period when the army eased its grip, opened up to foreign trade and investment, and permitted limited democratic activity.
Now the question is whether Myanmar is on its way to becoming a democracy in which the military retain some influence and privileges but are no longer preponderant, or whether it is going be a state in which the army remains on top behind a democratic facade – perhaps thanks to a narrow Burman ideology.
There is plenty to object to in this electoral campaign, including inadequate electoral lists, possible misuse of advance voting, overly complex voting procedures, alleged bias in the electoral commission, and failure to register voters abroad. But the real anxiety must be that the NLD may be cheated of decisive victory by this Islamophobic fantasy, or, even if it gets the landslide it expects, will have to cope after the election with its toxic legacy. Will ordinary voters brush aside the narrative of Muslim encroachment and make their choice about Myanmar’s future without prejudice? Much depends on the answer.

Is it Humanly Possible to be Honest?

By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
October 30, 2015
HONESTY is the best policy, but where does it begin? When leaders are liars, lawmakers are lawbreakers, teachers are tricksters and others aren't who they say they are, it's impossible to find honesty at its registered address. Honest individuals don't steal, lie or fail to keep promises. They are honourable people, who are comparable to goods made to specification or sold in exact weight. Nobody can be true to others unless, first, they are also true to themselves.
Thus being honest is all about being truthful, although it's not enough to speak the truth unless one also lives by its example. Anybody telling the truth but not practicing it is a hypocrite, while cowards hide the truth out of fear although they may not necessarily abandon it. Liars treat truth with flexibility and convenience. It is attire for them that must change with every occasion.
But how much honesty is humanly possible? There are many examples of people, who died for telling the truth. There have also been people throughout history, who lived within their means without indulging in any form of corruption. One can find examples of generous people, some of whom have given their entire fortune to charity. Misers are dishonest people; they live in wretched conditions to save and hoard money despite their solvent positions.
Average people exercise honesty in moderation. They tell the truth when it doesn't hurt, spend within their means, save according to their needs, and occasionally tweak their moral positions to avoid deprivation, harassment or threats of persecution and death. They are averagely honest, neither champions nor chumps but watch every step. Marginally honest and marginally dishonest, these people are reasonably ambitious without being excessively arrogant.
Honesty is one area where the haves are definitely the have-nots. Affluence is somewhat inversely related to honesty because beside hard work and talent, it also involves manipulation and deceit. French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon coined the slogan “Property is theft!” He argued that if he were asked what slavery is, he should answer in one word that it's murder. And, likewise, if asked what property is, he should answer in one word that it's robbery.
But material worth isn't the only battleground for honesty. People are also dishonest where neither money nor wealth is involved. Infidelity is dishonesty because it's betrayal. Influence peddling is dishonesty because it's unfair. Muscle flexing is dishonesty because it's coercion. Nepotism is dishonesty because it's discrimination. Election rigging is dishonesty because it's manipulation. Bribery is dishonesty because it's perversion.
When all of these phenomena persist in a society or a country, how can its citizens be honest? It's often asked which came first between the chicken and the egg. Similarly, one can ask if honesty can be the best policy before the best policy is honest. In other words, is it possible for an individual to become an island of perfection in a sea of distortions? Can a blotting paper avoid smudge when thrown in a puddle of ink?
One of the overriding goals of modern civilisation is to bring the rational out of the animal. The rational by definition is having or exercising the ability to reason. The animal, on the contrary, is behaving in a wild, aggressive or unpleasant fashion. Honesty is the pillar of rationality, because human character without it plunges into chaos.
Is honesty a divisible element? Can the same person be partially honest and partially dishonest? Can the same father take bribe and raise an honest family? Can the same leader cheat his followers and still adhere to his ideology? Can the same doctor neglect his patients, yet claim to follow his professional ethics?
Conscience is to honesty what nursery is to plants. It has been argued by scholars that the Greek term for conscience meant sharing knowledge with oneself. Each and every one of us is doing that sharing every wakeful moment. Each of us has the conversation with himself before he engages in conversation with others.
This is why honesty, like charity, begins at home. Unless one is honest with oneself, one can't be honest with rest of the world. And this is also why it must be mentioned that different types of crops grow on different types of soils. For example, root vegetables grow well in sand. Corn, squash, pumpkins, and okra do well in clay soil. Beets, cabbage, and carrots do well in alkaline soil.
In some markets child labour is essential, but illegal in many. Polygamy is prohibited in western societies but practiced in the east. Some societies have same sex marriage, although most frown upon it. Tax evasion is fun for some people, but taboo for the rest.
Humans vary from country to country. So does humanity. Honesty is humanly possible to the extent people are a function of their country.
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is the Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star. Email:

Islam and Education

By Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi
We can now discuss the thoughts of Said Nursi’s in the universal context as he has given his most holistic harmonious universal approach to various problems about educational empower¬ment and integration of religion and science and the reflec¬tion on thinking of Nursi on these civilization challenges for Muslims are very appropriate and most rewarding.
On educational front, efforts of Nursi’s contemporary and successor visionaries of Islam like Shibli, Maududi, Sir Syed and Ismail Raji Faruqui have met but with very less success in convincing the traditional Muslim clergy about the tenacity of modern sciences like religious sciences. But Madrasah Zahra model presented by Nursi stands for “in¬tegration of knowledge”, and his view that religious subjects should be taught in the secular schools (Maktabs) and that the positive sciences in the religious schools (Madrasa), so that the students of secular education are salvaged from irreligious behavior. The religious schools from bigotry are very progressive. Moreover, his ideas about integration of science and technology with education are very futuristic and rewarding given the pathetic situation of Muslims in educational field worldwide.
The unique features of Madrasat-uz Zahra model make it a most suitable and culturally viable model for Muslims in its global perspective also. Therefore studying this mod¬el in depth is highly desirable in the context of the consum¬erist tendencies emerging in the spheres of education and technology alarmingly, with no exception of Muslims and non Muslims, by relegating spiritual and moral values to margins. Nursian model provides an alternative which meets the demands of modern times but does not neglect the much needed values the education should imbibe to face the chal¬lenges in the wake of aggressive atheism, plague of material-ism and scourge of naturalism etc.
We should not forget that Nursi criticized his own concep¬tion of modern science as it was formulated during the new ‘Said period’. But he still did not deny “the utilization of the findings of modern science, especially the use of modern inventions”. Thus there was evolution in the views of Nursi’s intellectual perspective which tended to downplay the find¬ings of modern science in the interpretation of the religious texts.
Nursi admitted this lapse in the later stages of his intel¬lectual life, and held it to be an error: an error he once defined as “polishing Islam”.
It is true that Nursi realized some of the shortcomings of modern science, but this realization does not reflect a com¬prehensive critique of it. For example, Nursi arrived at the conclusion that modern science is not interested in meaning, but it is lost in dealing with the details of the material real¬ity. He also realized the fact that modern science is literalist, but instead of relating this literalism to the quantification of science, he, rather, identified it with material causality and formulated his intellectual discourse for its refuta¬tion.
But Said Nursi had a different perspective on science. He argued that “Islam is the master and guide of the sciences, and the chief and father of all true knowledge.” For integra¬tion of knowledge, his view is that religious subjects are taught in the new secular schools (Maktabs) and that the positive sciences are taught in the religious schools (Ma¬drasa). He argued that if the students are taught in this method, those in the secular schools will be saved from being without religion, while those in the religious schools will be saved from bigotry. A beautiful combination of scientific and religious sciences as envisaged by Nursi can be seen from this statement: “The light of the conscience is the religious sciences. The light of the mind is exact sciences. Reconcili¬ation of both manifests the truth. The student’s skills de¬velop further with these two (sciences). When they are separated, from the former superstition and from the latter corruption and skepticism is born.”
He wanted to integrate the science of modern times with Islamic thought. But his theory of integration was the new exegesis of the Qur’an to be written, almost exclusively, in light of the findings of modern science, and he tried to put it into practice with an added enthusiasm.
According to Nursi, the Quranic verses are the eloquent language of Qur’an. It is not to be searched for in Greek philosophy or, if you are a free thinker, see how ancient philosophy and science have imprisoned minds within the walls of some errors and thrown them into abjection. How¬ever, the new scientific approach has brought down the walls of that prison. It is clear that the key to the treasure of the aspects of Quranic verses is the eloquent language of the Quran. It is not to be searched for in Greek philosophy.
For sure the greatest obstacle, which causes us to suffer misery in the world and the Westerners to be deprived of happiness in hereafter, and which causes the sun of Islam to be eclipsed, is the supposed conflict between some outer aspects of Islam and certain established scientific facts. This is strange, to say the least, for how can something be in conflict with the very phenomenon that has given rise to it? For it is Islam which has given shepherded [sic.] the sciences, and even given birth to many of them. Yet the fallacy of conflict between Islam and science continues to prey on our minds, driving many to hopelessness and serving to close the doors of knowledge and civilization to many Mus¬lims.
In addition to the claim of objectivity, we should mention another important premise which influenced his intellectual perspective in a just as important manner: the linear conception of scientific progress. Nursi approached this premise in an equally uncritical way, and he adopted it into his intellectual perspective without showing any sign of resistance.
Therefore, he did not see any problem in declaring the traditional schools as obsolete. Had he approached the issue philosophically, he could have realized that the type of accumulation modern science appreciated was the accumulation of particular “facts” which paved the way for its emergence and, according to this perspective, unquantifiable entities cannot be considered in this category. From the perspective of modern science, only ideas, theories, or facts which but¬tress its legitimacy and functionality could be considered as accumulating and, therefore, incorporated in its domain of inquiry, not the accumulated wisdom.
Of humanity or the truths of traditional intellectual disciplines which came to existence in light of the teachings of revealed truths. Quite the opposite, for modern science there is a deep dichotomy between the two, and they cannot be reconciled with each other by any means. Thus, modern science meant to Nursi the driving force for the emergence of a new humanity in the West as well as the seed of a new Islamic civilization in the Muslim World.
God’s primary purpose for sending His wise Book is the guidance of people. All human beings are not on the same level of understanding, nor are they specialists in every branch of science. Therefore, God speaks in His scriptures in a way understandable to everyone. Those of a higher level of understanding and having expert knowledge can benefit from anything that is addressed to all people. But when a work addresses only scholars, things may become difficult for common people. Furthermore, people cannot easily abandon their habits or be freed from the things they have been familiar with for a long time. People often find it hard to deal with abstractions, but find it easier to understand things expressed with metaphors and similes, as these are closer to everyday life. For this reason, truths are usually presented in familiar terms or forms and thereby effectively presented for guidance.
To approach the issue more theoretically, what led Nursi to develop a politically motivated intellectual discourse to the extent of including the composition of a new exegesis was his unquestioned adoption of the idea of progress. His unreserved sympathy towards the cultivation of modern science was mainly related to this adoption. Bediüzzaman wa conscious that “mind, knowledge and science became dominant in this age”.
Even if teachers do not mention Allah, he attracts atten¬tion to the properties of each science showing Allah; he shows the events in the branches of science like economy, astronomy, philosophy, physics and chemistry as evidence of the existence of Allah through detailed explanations.
Only this view of Said Nursi shows that he has a philosophy that sees belief and science, and the education of them as interrelated.
Said Nursi observed all scientific events through the eyes of a theologian and he explained his approach successfully within the boundaries of the reasoning of the mind. He stated that the Qur’an included exact sciences and encouraged them. The decree of Islam about the outcomes of science is important in that it shows what causes those results.
The approach of science that neglects belief in Allah and overlooks the place and function of religion brings about “literal meaning”, that is, viewing beings on behalf of them¬selves, in terms of causes. The scientific approach that takes into consideration the power of creation and effect of Allah is related to “signified meaning”. That is, viewing things on behalf of Allah is the correct approach. To carry out scientific studies with the name of Allah does not mean that mind is put aside or neglected.
On the contrary, mind should step in to see the creative pow¬er of Allah. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi expresses this as fol¬lows:
“If you cannot encompass this elevated order, adorned with bezels of wisdom, with your sight, and you are incapable of understanding it through inductive reasoning, look through the prying eyes of the sciences – which are the senses of your species and are formed through the meeting of minds and conjunction of ideas, and are like the ideas of the human race – for you will see an order that dazzles the mind. You will know too that each of the physical sciences discloses through the universality of its principles, the order and harmony, the more perfect than which cannot be conceived of. For there is a science to study every area of the universe, or there will be. Science consists of universal principles, and this universality demonstrates the beauty of the order. All the sciences demonstrate a total, all-embracing order; each is a shining proof pointing to the benefits, indicating too the instances of wisdom and advantages concealed in their changing states. The sciences raise the banner of divine unity and testify to the Maker’s purpose and wisdom.”
Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi is Former Director of Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir and can be mailed at

Is ISIS Failing? 8 Questions to Consider

 By Ronald Tiersky
Once-fearsome ISIS/Islamic State is largely off the front pages these days. The main news from the Syrian battlefield is Russia's air campaign to prop up the Assad regime by attacking various rebel groups including, as a second thought, Islamic State, and to construct durable air and naval facilities on the Mediterranean coast. Targeting the other groups first, Moscow claims to have destroyed dozens of Islamic State manpower, storage, resupply and training targets but Vladimir Putin's credibility is zero. In any case, in Syria/Iraq, Islamic State's ground war has stalled. Its recent successes are far-away suicide bombings that may be more inspired by ISIS than organized by it. Claims that Islamic State is still gaining ground or even maintaining its strength call for skepticism. Here are some of the relevant questions:
1. New recruits: how many new recruits in fact arrive each month? Where are they on the battlefield? One thousand is the official Western estimate but is this number likely? Some of these would be new foreign fighters, others are fighters switching from Al Qaeda to ISIS for salaries and prestige. Poignant media stories about susceptible young people caught on their way to Syria have become rare. The charisma of the caliphate story is weakening. And even if there are so many recruits, what's the military quality of newly-arrived untrained fighters? With the exception of Chechen fighters (and how many are there of these?) the new arrivals lack experience. They're apparently first put into support and guard positions but a mere few weeks training with weapons means they are likely to get killed early on. Their major asset is bravery, not fighting skills.
2. Does ISIS really control vast swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory? This was questionable even when its army stormed out of northwest Syria last year because most of the land is mountainous or desert. Why (and how) would an irregular army estimated at total 20-30,000 fighters waste manpower to control a vast swath of desert with a few villages on it? An adversary military force could probably have driven around there for an hour or two undisturbed. Current maps of effective ISIS control show a modest territory in a wine-glass configuration whose bulb is an area wedged between, to the east, an equal size Kurdish-controlled area on the border with Turkey and, to the west, a small Damascus government-controlled territory around Aleppo, plus an edge of other rebel-held territory. ISIS control of the ancient city of Palmyra is in fact an isolated location in the center of the country. The glass stem is the vital area of Islamic State's territory. From its informal capital in Raqqa heading south it involves control of the northern bank of the Euphrates River (government forces are on the south bank) on the way toward Ramadi, Falluja and Baghdad where it abuts the Tigris. This early achievement was part of Islamic State's strategic plan to control the water supply along a long area, ultimately to threaten Baghdad. Dams were closed and the Euphrates at one point was diverted. Control of water may be Islamic State's most threatening weapon. Its occupied cities require defense, they aren't offense.

3. How solid is the caliphate infrastructure and how motivated are the fighters holding it? With few recent battleground successes, morale among the fighters and occupiers may be sinking. Media reports suggest large numbers of professionals -- medical personnel, business -- are fleeing ISIS territory among the massive outpouring of Syrian and Iraqi refugees heading toward Europe. ISIS propaganda suggest it is worried about a drain of medical personnel, teachers and other professionals such as oil-field managers. Some of these leave behind families they hope to bring later if they reach Europe.
4. Do ISIS fighting methods still terrorize the enemy? The shock value of barbarism has been played out. Videos of decapitations and other atrocities are hardly seen in Western media and while Syrian government soldiers, Kurds and Iranian-backed militias know what might happen if they're captured they're no longer terrified by it. Glamorized executions in other countries such as happened on a Libyan beach are rare. Islamic State fighters are now defeated with some frequency and ousted from towns and strategic locations (most recently the Baiji oil refinery and a successful Kurdish/U.S. raid to rescue prisoners held in Hawija).
5. Within Islamic State's leadership: how formidable is the military command structure after many senior officers have been killed? Is it still capable of organizing serious ground offensives? How cohesive is the religious ruling structure headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so-called Caliph Ibrahim? How much conflict is there within the religious leadership? Baghdadi is rarely heard from in audio messages and has never appeared again in public after his July 2014 sermon in a Mosul mosque. Is he still a charismatic leader capable of motivating deeply loyalty among new and veteran jihadists? A stalled operation is a permanent risk to Baghdadi's and the sharia council's authority.
6. How important is it to have contiguous territory and coherent fighting forces trying to overthrow governments? ISIS is stalled in Iraq and under attack from several sides in Syria. It's not expanding its contiguous territory and if core Islamic State is not expanding it is failing. How significant are pledges of allegiance of far-away jihadist groups (Libya, Khorason, the new groupuscule set up in Bahrain, unreliable Boko Haram)? In Afghanistan, ISIS seems to have attracted some Taliban fighters but the organizations still fight each other as well as the Kabul regime supported by the U.S. It remains to be seen if holding some territory in Afghanistan or elsewhere would enhance the core Islamic State in Syria/Iraq. A transnational Islamist caliphate would have to cohere. A confederation or even a federal structure wouldn't work because it would always be under attack somewhere. A weak international structure would be even more fragile than the Ottoman Empire. ISIS may in fact be declining from a threat to regimes into a beleaguered core area whose successes are terrorist bombings abroad.
7. How long will ISIS avoid attacks to take back its urban conquests such as Mosul, Raqqa and Ramadi? Raqqa has already been under air attack even though it's within the core territory. Mosul and Ramadi are isolated, surrounded, even under siege, by Kurds, Baghdad and Iranian proxy forces. Assaults to retake them are deterred mainly by the prospect of too much blood being spilled and large parts of the cities being left as ghost towns like Kobane. Lines of ISIS communication and resupply are threatened even if food and other supplies are let through to service the local population. ISIS fighters inside Mosul may number a thousand, probably many fewer in Ramadi.
8. The last question concerns Islamic State's vaunted success in social media propaganda. Certainly the West's anti-jihadist social media campaign is basically futile but Islamic State's propaganda success may be declining in spite of its output. AWall Street Journal report of October 7 (page A11) notes that since mid-September fourteen videos and 17 articles appeared trying to discredit the significance of the refugee flow to Europe. One of them uses a fiction concocted by the Communist German Democratic Republic to explain the Berlin Wall. The Wall, it said, was not built by the GDR to keep East Germans from leaving. It was built by the West to prevent its own citizens from fleeing to the Communists. The Islamic State video tells viewers the refugees are in fact Syrians moving from Damascus-controlled territory to the caliphate. There is no doubt that some young foreigners still arrive in ISIS territory on a mission and others internationally are impressed by the jihadist mentality, some enough to commit lone-wolf attacks. But in the medium term sheer quantity of propaganda may not be enough to replenish the ranks.
There's always the possibility that Islamic State's leadership is hiding its strength, reorganizing and will break out sometime soon in a new military campaign. But many signs point to weaknesses throughout the apparatus and ideology. My thought is that Baghdadi and his cohort are very worried.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is Islam Compatible with Our Modern Way of Life?

By Seidu Malik
October 20, 2015
Experience has shown that many natural phenomenon or processes are initially discovered with limited understanding or benefit to society. However, with pain staking effort and unbiased approach to the phenomenon, many of the unknown qualities that were initially observed as bad turn out to be good upon further examination. A case in point is the annotation of human genome sequence. Many of the genes with seemly-unknown functions decades ago were classified as “junk” but recent studies have proved otherwise.
In a similar fashion, severe misunderstanding and ignorance exist with Islam, a revealed religion from God Almighty that is a reflection of nature based on human conscience. Groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and ignorant clerics with a twisted understanding of Jihad are perverting the true teachings of Islam for political and selfish gains.  Opponents of Islam on the other hand, are presenting a narrative of Islam based on their personal bias and experience to misinform the public and thus make Islam appear as unfavorable in the eyes of people.
Good judgment demands that when someone seeks to understand a phenomenon, he or she often refers to an expert in the field. Unfortunately many Americans rely on media personalities who because of their personal bias and prejudice are making Islam appear incompatible with our way of life. We spend our time and energy to unravel the secrets of nature, however we fail miserably to use the same unbiased approach to comprehend the truth about Islam and thus has given rise to fear, intimidation and branding it followers as second class citizens unfit for the highest office in the land. Nothing can be further from the truth if you consider the fact that about 1400 years ago and in complete accord with human conscience of today and in line with the constitution of USA and many western countries, Islam categorically declared that “there should be no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:257).
Well, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the world is made up of people of different races, culture and religious affiliations all claiming to be from God. The question is, if these claims are true, how do you bring people of diverse background and opposing views to live with each other in absolute peace and harmony in society?  Islam affirm the need to live in peaceful society despite our glaring differences by stating that “We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us, and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, and that which was given to Moses and Jesus and other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we submit.” (Quran 3:85). This verse is especially important in today’s society as a solution to ease religious tensions and to foster unity and tolerance in society.
It is also no secret that not everyone in society will worship God if we exercise our right of freedom of religion and conscience in matters of faith. Another complicated question is, how does society uphold the right of those who are unbelievers or worship another deity?  Once again Islam says “And abuse not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they out of spite, abuse Allah in their ignorance. Thus unto every people have we caused their doing seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; and He will inform them of what they used to do”. (Quran 6:109). Does the true Islamic teaching not protect the golden principle of freedom of religion based on conscience enshrined in our constitution? Is this freedom and protection of faith not compatible with our modern way of life?
In this materialistic era of greed, cheating, injustices and lying in society with the sole intention of amassing wealth, what does Islam say about dishonesty? “O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice and be witness for Allah, even though it may be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he against whom witness is borne, be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them than you are. Therefore follow not low desire so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it then remember that Allah is Well-Aware of what you do”. (4:136).  Can these noble and honest teaching which can root out corruption from society even to the extent of testifying against your own self, family or powerful rich person in society to uphold justice and honest dealings be considered as incompatible with our modern way of life?
Islamic teachings, like any other religion, can be misinterpreted and misused by people. Even food that is vital for human survival can be misused and lead to medical problems like obesity or anorexia in extreme instances. Islam is also not immune to the same natural law of misuse and abuse and therefore demands and unbiased approach to fully comprehend its teaching. Lack of proper understanding of its teachings does not mean that it is incompatible with our modern way of living but instead failure on our part to study it teachings. Since the media has never taught any one to be perfect in any discipline but we instead consult an expert to augment our knowledge on certain phenomenon, we should use the same yardstick to learn Islam from authentic sources such as
To conclude, Just like the human genome sequence, nothing of God’s creation is “junk” or incompatible with our way of life if the right knowledge and effort is sought to decipher its appropriate use or intended purpose for society and thus, it will be a disfavor on our part to completely close our mind to the noble true teachings of Islam meant for the general good of mankind.
Seidu Malik is a Molecular microbiologist, with special interest in religious studies and is a member of the Muslim Writers’ Guild, USA.

Why Islam Doesn’t Need a Reformation

By Mehdi Hasan
17 May 2015 15
In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”. (That might be difficult, given Sisi, in the words of Human Rights Watch, approved “premeditated lethal attacks” on largely unarmed protesters which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.)
Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Somali-born author, atheist and ex-Muslim has a new book called Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She’s been popping up in TV studios and on op-ed pages to urge Muslims, both liberal and conservative, to abandon some of their core religious beliefs while uniting behind a Muslim Luther. Whether or not mainstream Muslims will respond positively to a call for reform from a woman who has described their faith as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that should be “crushed”, and suggested Benjamin Netanyahu be given the Nobel peace prize, is another matter.
This narrative isn’t new. The New York Times’s celebrity columnist Thomas Friedman called for an Islamic reformation back in 2002; US academics Charles Kurzer and Michaelle Browers traced the origins of this “Reformation analogy” to the early 20th century, noting that “conservative journalists have been as eager as liberal academics to search for Muslim Luthers”.
Apparently anyone who wants to win the war against violent extremism and save the soul of Islam, not to mention transform a stagnant Middle East, should be in favour of this process. After all, Christianity had the Reformation, so goes the argument, which was followed by the Enlightenment; by secularism, liberalism and modern European democracy. So why can’t Islam do the same? And shouldn’t the west be offering to help?
Yet the reality is that talk of a Christian-style reformation for Islam is so much cant. Let’s consider this idea of a “Muslim Luther”. Luther did not merely nail 95 theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg in 1517, denouncing clerical abuses within the Catholic church. He also demanded that German peasants revolting against their feudal overlords be “struck dead”, comparing them to “mad dogs”, and authored On the Jews and Their Lies in 1543, in which he referred to Jews as “the devil’s people” and called for the destruction of Jewish homes and synagogues. As the US sociologist and Holocaust scholar Ronald Berger has observed, Luther helped establish antisemitism as “a key element of German culture and national identity”. Hardly a poster boy for reform and modernity for Muslims in 2015.
The Protestant Reformation also opened the door to blood-letting on an unprecedented, continent-wide scale. Have we forgotten the French wars of religion? Or the English civil war? Tens of millions of innocents died in Europe; up to 40% of Germany’s population is believed to have been killed in the thirty years’ war. Is this what we want a Muslim-majority world already plagued by sectarian conflicts, foreign occupations and the bitter legacy of colonialism to now endure, all in the name of reform, progress and even liberalism?
Islam isn’t Christianity. The two faiths aren’t analogous, and it is deeply ignorant, not to mention patronising, to pretend otherwise – or to try and impose a neatly linear, Eurocentric view of history on diverse Muslim-majority countries in Asia or Africa. Each religion has its own traditions and texts; each religion’s followers have been affected by geopolitics and socio-economic processes in a myriad of ways. The theologies of Islam and Christianity, in particular, are worlds apart: the former, for instance, has never had a Catholic-style clerical class answering to a divinely appointed pope. So against whom will the “Islamic reformation” be targeted? To whose door will the 95 fatwas be nailed?
The truth is that Islam has already had its own reformation of sorts, in the sense of a stripping of cultural accretions and a process of supposed “purification”. And it didn’t produce a tolerant, pluralistic, multifaith utopia, a Scandinavia-on-the-Euphrates. Instead, it produced … the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Wasn’t reform exactly what was offered to the masses of the Hijaz by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the mid-18th century itinerant preacher who allied with the House of Saud? He offered an austere Islam cleansed of what he believed to be innovations, which eschewed centuries of mainstream scholarship and commentary, and rejected the authority of the traditional ulema, or religious authorities.
Some might argue that if anyone deserves the title of a Muslim Luther, it is Ibn Abdul Wahhab who, in the eyes of his critics, combined Luther’s puritanism with the German monk’s antipathy towards the Jews. Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s controversial stance on Muslim theology, writes his biographer Michael Crawford, “made him condemn much of the Islam of his own time” and led to him being dismissed as a heretic by his own family.
Don’t get me wrong. Reforms are of course needed across the crisis-ridden Muslim-majority world: political, socio-economic and, yes, religious too. Muslims need to rediscover their own heritage of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect – embodied in, say, the Prophet’s letter to the monks of St Catherine’s monastery, or the “convivencia” (or co-existence) of medieval Muslim Spain.
What they don’t need are lazy calls for an Islamic reformation from non-Muslims and ex-Muslims, the repetition of which merely illustrates how shallow and simplistic, how ahistorical and even anti-historical, some of the west’s leading commentators are on this issue. It is much easier for them, it seems, to reduce the complex debate over violent extremism to a series of cliches, slogans and soundbites, rather than examining root causes or historical trends; easier still to champion the most extreme and bigoted critics of Islam while ignoring the voices of mainstream Muslim scholars, academics and activists.
Hirsi Ali, for instance, was treated to a series of encomiums and softball questions in her blizzard of US media interviews, from the New York Times to Fox News. (“A hero of our time,” read one gushing headline on Politico.) Frustratingly, only comedian Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, was willing to point out to Hirsi Ali that her reformist hero wanted a “purer form of Christianity” and helped create “a hundred years of violence and mayhem”.
With apologies to Luther, if anyone wants to do the same to the religion of Islam today, it is Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to rape and pillage in the name of a “purer form” of Islam – and who isn’t, incidentally, a fan of the Jews either. Those who cry so simplistically, and not a little inanely, for an Islamic reformation, should be careful what they wish for.
Mehdi Hasan is a presenter on Al-Jazeera English. The views expressed here are his own

A Modest Proposal for Eliminating Terrorism

By Haroon Moghul
OCTOBER 26, 2015
They make us arrive really early at the airport. They’ve turned our terminals into their victory mosques, forcing us to march barefoot, with arms upraised, through radioactive, carcinogenic or far too intimate machines. They frighten armed white Americans. They refuse to accept being bombed, oppressed, attacked or insulted. They try to impose Shariah in Oklahoma, keystone of the modern American economy, anchor of the free world. They flee wars rather than die in them. They have the audacity to seek asylum from armed gangs that we regret funding.
They are overly fond of Toyota pickups, though American alternatives are superior. Some of them turn to violence, and that violence can be terrible. Those who don’t turn to violence will eventually. It’s a matter of when. Not if. They’re ticking time bombs, beginning young, bringing them to school and claiming they’re clocks. They hide jihadist camps inside cemeteries. And we haven’t even arrived at their greatest enormity. Young men from all over the world travel to Syria and Iraq to build an expansionist Caliphate. They rape, pillage and enslave.
They blow up their own mosques, and then complain when they can’t build minarets in other countries.
They’re Muslims. And they are the problem of our time. Distracting us from what should be the problems of our times. Instead of attending to systemic, long-term challenges like climate change and income inequality, for example, otherwise companionable powers like Russia and America are drawn into conflict zones like Syria, and the fighting could escalate into nuclear war and kill large numbers of people. Many of them not Muslim. Nuclear war is bad. Anything that causes nuclear war is bad. Therefore Muslims are bad. The logic is unassailable. But the solutions unsatisfying. We’ve invaded some of their countries. We’ve killed some of their leaders. There seems to be little chance, however, that they’ll convert to Christianity. Even if they did, would they be the right kind of Christian?
The challenge is not to imagine, as Graham Fuller once suggested, a world without Islam. Because so long as there are Muslims, there will be some kind of Islam. Therefore there will be some kind of problem. Nor does that really get at the heart of the problem, the truth we keep circling, nay circumambulating, without ever acknowledging. We face it without naming it. Even without Islam, (former) Muslims will be a problem: What kind of people, after all, fall for an inferior religion unless they’re inferior themselves? Not just some of them. All of them. If the chicken is Islam, Muslims are the egg. That makes about as much sense as most of their Friday sermons, which are always overtime, and the shoe racks are fire hazards, and fire is bad. Therefore Muslims are bad.
You see, clearly, where I am going with this.
The great need of our age is a solution not to Islam, but to Muslims. All 1.6 billion of them. Before they cross the 2 billion mark, at least. But don’t think I mean we kill them off! Genocide is against our values. Given, however, their typical response to invasions, profiling or even criticism, it is unlikely that Muslims would, say, willingly offer themselves up as a protein source. But we must find a solution. Soon. Because by the time they start showing up in Reykjavik, that means there will be no safe spaces left, no industrial society unpolluted by their ways and means and spices, no 21st-century democracy not incubating a seventh-century theocracy. Therefore I present for your consideration and deliberation this modest proposal.
That we send Muslims to Mars. Half of them, precisely.
Muslim men, that is. All of them, including those descended from them (sorry, Aziz Ansari, but thank you for Modern Romance). We shall provide these 800 million persons with free transport off Earth and to the Red (Green) Planet, on ships stocked with ample halal foodstuff, hummus, shisha, biryani, chicken tikka masala, maybe a halal pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut to entice them, and some basic requirements for Muslim life, such as pickup-style Martian rovers, living modules (tents) and interplanetary compasses to determine the direction of Mecca, light arms and TOW anti-tank missiles, but no surface-to-air missiles, because in the thinness of the Martian atmosphere, we’re not really sure how far they might fly, and we don’t want them to pulverize Phoebes, create a debris cloud, kill off George Clooney, give Sandra Bullock her groove back, or otherwise threaten Earth with jihad from the heavens above.
Moreover, this is a decidedly pacific solution. Sure, Muslim men will all die on Mars, but we won’t have killed them. The planet will have. And whose fault is it that a planet exists on which people cannot live? We shall leave the theological concerns to the religious scholars, who will need new fatwa topics to keep themselves busy anyway.
We will be busy, too. All great nations of the world shall join hands in this ecumenical crusade, worthy of full-on, nine-hour-long Peter Jacksonian sexpartite treatment, but we should not actually release the movie series. We may not want to keep too many records just in case our descendants turn soft and overly sensitive and feel guilty about our zealousness in defense of liberty, just like hipsters feel bad about Native Americans but move everywhere they want across formerly Native American lands and drive up rents for the currently indigenous. They’ll feel bad anyhow. Not the hipsters, who are hairy like Muslims. Our descendants, I mean. Because they will be able to afford decadence. With Muslim men gone, the last great predator will have been eliminated from Earth. Wolf will lie with sheep because, as you’ve no doubt noted in reading Biblical prophecy, there will be no Muslims left to prevent just such a thing from happening.
But why only Muslim men?
Mars’ Bars
We cannot risk the chance of Muslims breeding, and thereafter their descendants living long enough to industrialize. Already one of their countries figured out the nuclear thing. By separating Muslim men from women, we deny them the chance to reproduce their genes without being improved by old Canadian or other stock; by separating Muslim men from women, we let an inferior gene pool die out. (They’re the ones who picked Islam, remember? We are merely squaring the circle.) We will not kill them, but that does not absolve us from making sure they cannot build colonies on Mars that one day may come back to have their revenge, nor does it absolve us from improving the remaining Muslim population — Muslim women will have only non-Muslim men to breed with. Everyone knows Islam travels through the father. Remember Barack Hussain Obama?
The absence of any such fathers will cut Islam’s earthly story off. (We will also have to deport Barack Obama. On the upside, Mr. President: At least you only have daughters.) The absence of Muslim men, it should be noted, will be greatly liberating for Muslim women as well. Finally every mosque will be a woman-friendly, or even woman-acknowledging, mosque. This modest proposal, if I am immodest, is so good, so perfect, so impervious to refutation, that it seems in fact too good to be true. Of course, though, you would ask: Why would Muslim men go along?
A: Because their religion compels them to!
Because Islam worships death, the moon god, or a non-Judeo-Christian God, Muslim men will eagerly embrace the chance to land on Mars, fighting and dying for a meaningfully sovereign, Muslim-only, Shariah-compliant zone, either succeeding or passing on to their 72 virgins (as well as breathable atmosphere, flowing water and other greeneries, all of which puts heaven decidedly above the fourth planet on the desirability scale). Muslim men will live out the last chapter of their history in glory.
Meanwhile, Earthbound scientists will have the chance to observe humans in a new environment and, after all Muslim males move on, they can review the data and have that much better sense of what it will take to colonize a planet, which though a valuable knowledge set, may, in fairness, never be needed. Columbus sailed the ocean blue to break the Muslim stranglehold on world trade. What use will there be voyaging to new shores absent Islam? With the deportation of Muslim men, Earth’s warming will slow significantly. There will be more room for everyday activities, especially in Russia and Eastern Europe, whose catastrophic demographic implosion will be far less worrying without the scary contrast provided by robust Muslim fertility. Muslim women, freed from Muslim male oppression (or, more briefly, “Muslim men”), will be able to live out the last days of Islam by sitting at the front of the mosque. There will be no need for veils, headscarves or burqas, and no need for France to betray its secular values, or Canada to conduct elections based on secondary issues, or Ben Carson to get donations, or Stephen Harper to ever come back into office. Is it not a brilliant idea? Is it not an idea long overdue? Is it not perfect?
Is there any threat to the world Muslim men are urged to leave behind, or on the world to which they will allegedly safely arrive?
Black Hole Sons
One might wonder why Muslim men would voluntarily board aircraft built in other nations, to travel away from all known nations. This is a nonissue. Many Muslim men already happily use weapons manufactured in countries whose agendas they oppose in order to slaughter each other, or us. Muslim men are used to chanting “death to America” or “death to Russia” while firing into the air ammunition made in America or Russia. Would a spacecraft be so different? If their spacecraft breaks up as it leaves Earth, Muslim men will fall harmlessly to the sea. Being a desert people, they will be unable to swim, but their religion teaches that drowning may result in martyrdom, for which reason they should be greatly pleased.
If their hegira to Mars succeeds, there is little need for concern. Given that Muslims historically have never invented any weapons of mass destruction, have not pioneered or sustained meaningful industrialization, and are arrested for the least bit of technical curiosity, their presence on Mars cannot produce societies different from their largely failed attempts at social organization and political development here on Earth. Since Muslims possess no amphibian DNA, it is also unlikely any of these entirely male exiles will switch genders and thus enable reproduction. Instead they will struggle, perhaps form some emirate, wilayat, Islamic Republic, or even another Caliphate, and so on and so forth, but eventually and inevitably they will starve, kill each other off, freeze, bleed out or otherwise die. It’s hard to see a downside here.
In fact, one might say this has been prophesied, in sacred literature as we have mentioned, and secular literature too. Fans of science fiction know there are no Muslims in the United Federation of Planets. That’s why there was a Federation in the first place: The peoples of a united Earth knew what needed to be done. Maybe that’s what united them, and not the silly Vulcan story. Maybe that’s the real reason they built warp drive. Not to boldly go, but to quickly get them out and away. Which is what is demanded of us today, a sensible, reasonable, moral and comprehensive solution to a problem too great and too urgent to be ignored. Let them board the spacecraft that take them to Mars. Let them live briefly there. Let them prosper as they define prosperity. Let them be free to be themselves. Leave us be. At great cost, yes, but with huge benefit. Without people different from us, we’d have no cause for bigotry, racism or phobia. Without Muslims, the world will be at peace.
Since there have been no historic or recent instances of conflict involving non-Muslim peoples or powers, we can expect an unprecedented era of harmony and prosperity.
Haroon Moghul is a co-producer at Avenue M, a widely published writer and a popular public speaker.

Dear Infidel: The Dilemma of British Muslims

 By Raza Rumi
I was a student in the United Kingdom when The Satanic Verses - the controversial novel by Salman Rushdie - created pandemonium across the globe. Images of the book being burnt were flashed across the television screens. My British Muslim friends were divided - some passionate about the issue of blasphemy, others unconcerned or detached from the divide. However, this moment marked a moment of imagination of a "new Islam." Author Sadia Abbas has delineated this constructionof the "violent" versus the "civilised" (Western world) in a new book entitled: At Freedom's Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament (Fordham University Press). With the "defeat" of Communism and move to "liberate" Kuwait in 1991, a new kind of sensibility was brewing. The September 11 attacks a decade later cemented this construction and today the Muslim, especially in the West is a loaded term open to multiple interpretations; and a new imagination of Islam rules the public mind.
It is in this context that a recent novel Dear Infidel by Tamim Sadikali is an important work of fiction emanating from the United Kingdom where new Islam is also under heavy scrutiny. Sadikali, an authentic voice from the "hood" has both the panache and punch to weave a story around issues of "British Muslim" identity and how it is informed by race, ethnicity, dilemmas of assimilation. Dear Infidel is a story of disparate lives of young Brits negotiating multiple identities in a post-9/11 world.
The canvas of the novel reminds one of a miniature where a family assembled for a Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (the end of fasting month) becomes the metaphor for a community. The setting is a typical desi home in northwest London at the end of 2004, more than year after the Iraq War and a little before the ghastly 7/7 bombings that shook London and the UK.
The protagonists are four cousins - two pairs of brothers - with varying temperaments, personal demons and political outlooks. Aadam, a professional success story is haunted by the war on terror; and his wife Nazneen is a liberated British Pakistani (and ends us as the most clear-headed character of the novel). Then there is the well-to-do Pasha, who lives with his English girlfriend; he is irreligious but embedded in the cultural identity. The other two archetypal characters are Salman, most religious among these blokes and keen to drum religious education into his kids; and the neurotic Imtiaz, hooked to porn, relatively disengaged with the world.
These are well-crafted characters. Sadikali's brings out their personal histories and traumas of the "present" in a most readable manner. Dear Infidel adds to fiction that focuses on second-generation immigrant culture. This is a hybrid culture where leek and potato soup is consumed with a Pakistani meal, religious debates are reverential as well as flippant, cricket is central to discussions, and characters are comfortable with a seemingly curious mix of Bollywood and British TV references.
From the décor of the homes to the seething tensions between generations and individualistic siblings, the setting is all too familiar. What is apparent to some, however, gets lost in the mainstream media discourses. The diversity within the British Muslim community - and here it is just one family - is mind-boggling.
There are more than 2.71 million (2011 Census) Muslims in Britain comprising 4.8 per cent of the total population. Nearly half of this number was born in the UK. The largest Muslim community in UK comes from Pakistan. It is estimated that nearly 1.2 million Britons have a connection with Pakistan. The second-generation migrants of Pakistani origin have made their mark in politics and society. Yet, the community lags behind others.
"Bangladeshis born in Britain are also more likely than their Pakistani counterparts to socialise with people of a different ethnicity" a report from The Economist notes. Most of the Pakistani community comes from the rural Mirpur Valley in Kashmir that started to arrive in the UK during 1960s. Bangladeshis are later migrants. Half of them reside in London. Only one one-fifth of Pakistanis live in London. "Cultural conservatism," cousin marriage and of late links to radical ideas from Pakistan are more commonly reported. More worryingly many younger Muslims are exposed to the extremist groups within the UK allowed by the UK to operate in the country.
The divides are deepening. For instance a recent survey showed that 52 per cent of non-Muslim respondents said Islam was incompatible with the British society. Conversely, the Muslims believe that suspicion of them and their religion has increased in recent years as security services have acted on concerns about growing radicalisation of the Muslim community. The Muslim communities also question the British state's handling of the Muslims as they want to penetrate into the radical groups for information. A good number of British-Pakistanis live in segregated areas thereby adding to the inward-looking attitudes.
What Sadikali does bring out is how the events such as Iraq War and 9/11 impact these characters and their cultural universe, of which the Islamic faith is one part. For instance, when Aadam watches an Iraq War update, his curt boss says: "We don't pay you to be preoccupied with the war on terror, understand?" Salman is heckled while wearing salwar-kameez with a leather jacket. At work he has been called "Osama." These are everyday realities that British Muslims have to face and most of them have little or no involvement with the radicals.
The Iraq bombing and the tragic deaths of civilians, which we know better now, are an underlying theme of the novel. But this warscape is not miles away; it penetrates the sensibilities of the Londoners who are straddling their multiple identities.
The idea of loyalty to the land then emerges as an issue. It is also somewhat similar to what the Muslims in India are questioned about by some extremists. And not too different from what the Pakistani Hindus have to go through. "Am I British or am I not?" is an existential question that one of the characters raises rather poignantly.
The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the hundreds of European Muslims joining it has once again sharpened the divides. The British Prime Minister David Cameron recently made a contentious speech on Islamic extremism, which elicited many responses. One response was from a British Muslim woman who wrote: "Despite being born in Manchester, growing up here and being a proud Mancunian... For the first time in 37 years I feel as though I don't belong. And yes, I am Muslim. Just a British Muslim."
Not unlike the feisty British Muslim woman who challenged her PM, the strongest character from Dear Infidel is Nazneen. She marries Aadam after a complicated relationship with a white man. She is not a nihilist and has the rationalist Muslim voice that finds no issues with the British-Western-non-Muslim identity. Nazneen is a textbook case of an "integrated" British Muslim.
The Indian community in Britain has been termed as a better performing group in terms of "integration and economic advancement." Do they have to go through a test of proving themselves as loyal Britons? Or worse, are they all clubbed as an extremist, or near-extremist group? The protagonists of Dear Infidel struggle to answer some of those questions. More importantly, they are in a conversation with themselves especially what Muslims worldwide (including those in the Western countries) need to hold.