Mar 16 2019

Iran’s Currency Crisis Is an Opportunity

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=19111
By: Dr. Imad ad-Dean Ahmad
March 2019


Donald Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA (“Iran Nuclear Deal”) poses many problems for everyone, including both the U.S. and Iran.  The biggest problems for Iran are the economic crisis threatened by the loss of foreign investment and the currency crisis threatened by denial of access to the dollar-denominated banking system, a vulnerability demonstrated by the Iranian rial’s 12.5% plunge last Saturday. The degree to which it can avoid the first depends on the willingness of international actors to resist American pressure, but the latter can be easily sidestepped if Iran will just apply modern technology to a classical Islamic economic principle on what constitutes valid money.

There is a hot debate over the future of cryptocurrencies. The blockchain technology on which they are built offers privacy, security, and independence from both government intrusion and traditional banks. On the other hand, they possess many of the same flaws as government fiat currency. They are not backed by anything tangible and their value is nothing more nor less than the confidence of people in the marketplace.

Any successor Iranian government would have the added incentive that the Iranian people themselves favor the nuclear deal that the American sanctions seek to undermine.

The crisis presents both danger and opportunity. Iran can be the first to offer a blockchain account for a currency denominated in a well established monetary unit and backed by a valuable commodity. They can create a blockchain cryptocurrency denominated in Islamic gold dinars (4.25 grams of gold) and payable in demand in Iranian oil at the current market price. This currency would combine the benefits of a backed government fiat currency with the benefits of blockchain accounting.

I identified the advantages of a backed fiat currency in an open letter to the then-president of Iran in 2008: “Such a currency will never lose its value as long the oil backing it is sufficient to buy back the currency in circulation. It will provide you with a non-inflationary way to share the oil wealth of Iran with its people. Once established, such a currency would be attractive to all the peoples of the world who would want to de

nominate their foreign debts in it as the world used to use the U.S. dollar before America foolishly abandoned the gold standard and silver backing, paving the way for their recurrent inflation and the current credit crisis.” By creating a blockchain account for the trade of such a currency, the international banking system would be completely bypassed.

That is not to say that such a currency is without risk. It is very dangerous to tick off the international banking community. We recall that the overthrow of Qaddafi was triggered by the U.S. “desire to quash the gold-backed African currency” he proposed. Iran, however, may not be easily intimated. Nor would regime change be as easy to implement in the case of Iran. Even if the regime were overthrown, any new regime might be reluctant to undermine the new currency for the same reason revolutionary governments usually honor the debts of the government they overthrow (not to undermine their own credit rating). Any successor Iranian government would have the added incentive that the Iranian people themselves favor the nuclear deal that the American sanctions seek to undermine.

If Iran creates a gold-denominated blockchain currency account that they pledge to back with Iranian oil they will be doing themselves and the world a favor. Of course, any other government, including the U.S., could do the same thing, but as long as they believe they can continue playing the same game of running up huge deficits they have no incentive to do so.  The current crisis provides Iran with a unique opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of monetary policy.

Embed from Getty Images

 


Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Mar 10 2019

LibertyCon19 : My Journey in Faith and Freedom

Muslims for Liberty delegation at LibertyCon 2019

By Mohammad Anas S Khan
M4L Guest Contributor
March 2019

It takes a 20 hours long flight from Mumbai all the way to Washington DC; however, it takes the passion for liberty to be privileged among the thousands of leaders around the world to actually experience the wonder that LibertyCon rightly represents. My journey to LibertyCon involves an array of experiences that I have had over the past two years into the global freedom movement. From being the sole local coordinator in Mumbai to being part of the South Asia Executive Board to being invited to attend LibertyCon19, I am delighted to state that these have been the defining years that have shaped me individually, socially and academically. And it continues, as I write this piece.

Volunteering and working with SFL is a unique experience both in letter and in spirit. On one hand, the idea of liberty unites you in movement to thousands of other individuals who share the same commitment while on the other hand, you create magical friendships, almost bonding as a family with your team.

As an SFL volunteer, I was also honoured to receive the Liberty International Scholarship to attend the Liberty International Conference in August 2018 in Krakow, Poland. However despite the best efforts by the organisers, I could not make it to the Conference because of an arbitrary Visa refusal just two days before the Conference. That, I believe, was a real tough time to reconcile with. I am narrating this incident to acquaint the readers of the many challenges I faced to attend LibertyCon19 and the immense support I have received from SFL staff in particular. Among other things, it is indicative of their belief in the people who genuinely believe in the movement, and in the cause the movement represents, in general.

I was really delighted to receive the mail inviting me for the Top Global Leadership Retreat as well as LibertyCon 2019. Although, my biggest fear was a Visa refusal, given my past experience, and that cast shadows of skepticism about my attendance in the event. I conveyed it to the staff at SFL who have been at the helm of assistance. I am, also, grateful to the office of Late Congressman Walter Jones who helped this young student from India to come all the way to DC. In a way, these events highlight the amount of work and logistics that is involved in organising such great Conferences. LibertyCon19 was unlike other such Conferences for two major reasons: Firstly, because it was not a conference that was focused on a uniform discourse and secondly, it was an active platform for competing ideas to challenge each other in a civilised manner.

The Conference brought together thought leaders and Institutes from diverse backgrounds, and the reason was solely to engage and compete in the ideas business in a civilised manner. That is what liberty stands for, the freedom to ensure that the most unpopular ideas are given a space to be discussed and debated. In fact, recently when an American news portal raised concerns that LibertyCon19 was a gathering of climate change deniers, I was really surprised as to how the article clearly missed the plot.

All these years, I have closely studied and even cited from the books of freedom lovers like Dr. Tom Palmer, Mustafa Akyol, David Boaz, Jeffrey Tucker, Cory Massimino as well as David Friedman. The opportunity to meet them in person and to know the humility with which they interact was refreshing, and left me in awe. But LibertyCon19 was not just about the intellectual discourse and the academic narrative; it was also about creating agencies of libertarian discourse within cultural and religious communities and bringing them on board the global freedom movement.

I was privileged to interact with Muslims for Liberty and never have I felt closer to my faith than to know that there is no conflict between the highest ideals of Islam and the universal idea of liberty. The work that Muslims for Liberty is doing is crucial in terms of reclaiming the narrative of our faith from those who are destroying it from within, while at the same time ensuring that the negative public opinion be changed through educating people on the real ideals of Islam. I am grateful to both Muslims for Liberty for engaging in this noble cause and to Students for Liberty for being an inclusive movement. As a practicing Muslim and someone who loves theology, I really wish Muslims4Liberty to become a global movement in the coming years. I hope their work attains much importance in these times when the world, in general, and Muslim world, in particular, has been ravaged by orthodoxy and war.

Lastly, I’d like to especially emphasise the everlasting bonds I made with other SFLers around the world. The ‘Socials’ as well as the many conversations on life, cultures as well as our individual experiences create the magic behind the hashtag #SFamily. I am truly overwhelmed and there is much more that I want to write and talk about LibertyCon19 but at times, one falls short of words to express the high degree of happiness experienced.

Sincerely and For Liberty!

 

Mar 01 2019

Interview by Reza Saiedi on Iranian-American Relations

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=19041
By: Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad

Sep. 2018


[This is the text of free-lance journalist Reza Saedi’s interview with Minaret of Freedom Institute president Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad on Iranian-American relations.]


Q. Please comment: US sanctions have a direct impact on the Iranian civilian population– limiting medical and research supplies, limiting machinery used to maintain civilian transportation systems, etc. While such actions are criticized by the UN and other world organizations dedicated to improving civil society worldwide, the US gives itself (and Israel) permission to ignore the rule of law. 

A. The great economist Frederic Bastiat observed, “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Sanctions in the form of a blockade or embargo constitute an act of war, and if the Trump sanctions fall short of that on a technicality, they nonetheless open the door for war which is precisely what the Neoconservatives and Israel who are behind the sanctions are hoping will be the result.

Q. The parameters by which the US is seeking to keep the sanctions against Iran in place are in violation of international laws. With this being the case, why are other nations willing to comply with American pressure to abide by those sanctions and cut their own relationships with Iran? 

A. The nations willing to comply with the American sanctions are unwilling to bear the short-term costs that are being inflicted upon them by America’s strong economic position, especially as regards American dominance of the international banking due to the central role of the dollar. They could free themselves from this dependence on the dollar by returning to a gold standard, but that is a long-term commitment that short-sighted politicians are loathe to deal with and in any case they perhaps remember that Moammar Qaddafi’s intention “to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar” was followed by violent and undignified overthrow

Q. Pres. Trump met with Kim Jong-un and plans to talk with Putin, however in spite of these “diplomatic” steps, Trump has also alienated long-time US allies Europe and Canada and launched a trade war with them and China. How will this schizophrenic foreign policy balance out?

A. As President Trump aligns himself with dictators, oligarchs, and absolute monarchs to the detriment of America’s relationships with liberal democracies and republics, the decline of the American empire will accelerate.

Q. Please comment on the disconnect between the how marches to protest domestic problems in the United States is never portrayed in the media as an attempt to bring down the government, however the smallest march in Iran is blown up to a larger scale and made to appear that Iranians are seeking “regime change”.

A. Although the American media certainly exaggerates the connection between Iranian demonstrations about particular issues and opposition to the regime in general, it would be to Iran’s benefit to understand that such misrepresentations are facilitated by the harshness of the Iranian government’s response to demonstrations against it as compared with the response of the American government to its domestic critics.

Q.The United States is spending billions of dollars on the military, in particular invading Iraq and Afghanistan and also playing a role in Syria. While Trump states that these invasions have brought no positive results for American interests, the help and involvement of Iran in these same conflict zones has been very strategic, although that point goes unnoticed by the mainstream media. Were it not for Iran’s assistance in fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, the US would be faced with two newly formed terrorist states in those areas. Would you say that this is a fair assessment? Your comment?

A. This is a fair assessment. The U.S. media that accepts without comment or criticism claims of the Trump administration that it, rather than Iran and the Kurds, has been responsible for the decline of Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Jan 26 2019

Emir abd El-Kader: A Teacher for the World (A Story of True Jihad)

M4LSource: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=19439
By: Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad
Nov 2018


[On September 12, 2018 the Abd Elkader Project held a [full day forum]  introducing  the Muslim scholar turned fighter, turned POW, turned exile, turned hero to the world, honored by Abraham Lincoln with a gift of dueling pistols and by a small town in Iowa that named itself after him, and by the International Red Cross for being the man whose humane treatment of prisoners of war according to Islamic law inspired the Geneva Conventions. The following account is my impressions of the highlights of the program and is not intended as a transcript.]


[Speakers at the Abd Elkader forum]:

 

Tamara Shehadah (Our Muslim Voices and The Abdelkader Ambassador Program) said that Abdelkader’s parents taught him to seek and respect diversity. The Abdelkader Ambassador Program focuses on bridge building between different people and cultures, starting with food. She quoted Emir Abdelkader: “Knowledge is the box, the keys are the questions.”

James Patton (International Center for Religion & Diplomacy) explained that telling stories of faith heroes can be a bulwark against recruitment for extreme and violent groups. He feels that the key to encouraging the young by Emir Abdelkader’s example is to present him as one who struck a balance between piety and strength. Promoting him as a model among young people unaccustomed to taking historical figures as heroes may be done through new media. The celebrated values of the Emir could be advanced by highlighting current figures who share his values.

Daisy Khan (WISE), focused on the need to flesh out heroes in the current climate. Muslims around the world are unable to mention a single hero other than the Prophet Muhammad.

He was deeply Muslim but he also grew while in prison in France. He saw no conflict among religion, science, and politics, although he “discovered that politics shrinks the spirit while the sacred enlarges it without limit.”

There are two busts in headquarters of the Red Cross: its founder Henry Dunant and Emir Abdelkader, whom Dunant credited as the inspiration for the Geneva Conventions. He insisted on the respectful treatment of prisoners. He was also admired by an American lawyer in Dubuque who named his settlement in Iowa after him.

When the Emir died, the New York Times called him one of the great men of the century. Explaining his protection of Christians, he said, “That which we did for the Christians we did to be faithful to Islamic law.” He believed that after spiritual knowledge the most important knowledge is political knowledge. He was deeply Muslim but he also grew while in prison in France. He saw no conflict among religion, science, and politics, although he “discovered that politics shrinks the spirit while the sacred enlarges it without limit.”

Tamar Miller (AEP) said her first visit to Iowa was to Elkader. She proposed a list of questions to provoke reflection on Emir Abdelkader, starting with “What? Iowa, Islam and Muslims?” Think about the fact that the Mother Mosque of America is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Reflect on the power of words to evoke (jihad, shariah, hijab, ijtihad, etc.). Why did Emir Abdelkader lay down arms after seventeen years? Why did Lincoln give the Emir a pair of colt pistols?

Emir Abdel Kader meets Napoleon III (source: wikicommons)

 

Azhar Hussein (Peace & Education Foundation, Pakistan) spoke of Abdelkader’s Reception in Pakistan. An Urdu version of John Kiser’s book, Commander of the Faithful, was introduced into Pakistan. Al Shariah magazine wrote three articles about the book. An al-Qaeda propagandist criticized the Emir for giving up his fight against the French. Hussein’s organization seeks to expand the program by engagement with religious leaders and work with madrassas. They met with a salafi leader who has completely turned around by the Emir’s story.

Lakhdar Brahimi (Former Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister and UN diplomat) explained that Algeria’s struggle for independence in the 1950s and 60s was a continuation of his struggle against French occupation in the 19th century. If Abdelkader has been Algeria’s George Washington, his struggle took several generations and it is not over today.

He is a leader for the 21st century, but not the only one. Among today’s youth are a tiny minority who speak of jihad as random acts of violence and cruelty. (At times the desire to understand is seen as a desire to condone.) There was a call in France to amend the Qur’an put out by those who seem to have no familiarity with it. Are those who divide their compatriots against one another fighting terrorism or are the planting the seeds of further radicalism? Brahimi quoted Muhammad Arkoun’s phrase “the clash of ignorances” (ignorance not only of the Other but of contexts).

“The forms of worship may change but not the Master.”–Emir AbdelKader

Andrea Bartoli, Ph.D. (Seton Hall School of Diplomacy) said that Emir Abdelkader invites us to look at the military in a much different way, something closer to the origin of America when the military was much closer to the people. What do you do when your country is invaded? The Emir’s answer is to look to knowledge–not just military knowledge, but to know your enemy, which is difficult when you are talking about people far away and speaking in another language.

The French wondered who is this person who is treating prisoners well and challenging us to do the same. He taught Europeans how to treat prisoners in a way that years later we call the Geneva Conventions. History is made when years later we go back and ask the meaning of what happened. It is appropriate for a Catholic to be speaking at a Protestant seminary about a Muslim and to be grateful we are not killing one another. We need to deepen the American conversation because America is very important. Religious freedom comes to Catholics through American Catholics. Look at how many Sunnis outside America do not consider Shi’a to be Muslims.

Major Matthew H. Peterson (US Marine Corps–not speaking for the Marine Corps) told how John Kiser read an article he had written on cultural knowledge and the value of relying on knowledge from people in the region and doing cultural training in advance. “The Cargo Pocket Koran” was born of his meeting with Daisy Khan. Major Peterson noted that whenever we were successful on the battlefield it was because of people we knew and not because of superior firepower.

The Qur’an is too big for an infantryman to carry on his back, and thus the need for a condensation that would fit into the pocket of his cargo pants. In primitive languages the word for stranger and enemy are the same. Next year we will be sending young men and women to Afghanistan who were not even born on 9/11. There are one million members in the military compared to a thousand in the state department. The face of America is an armed 19-year-old from a conservative Christian state. For Peterson, the Emir’s main contribution is in the area of just war theory. There are just wars fought unjustly and unjust wars fought justly. John McCain said, “War is wretched beyond description.” Sun Tzu also argues the mastery of war is to win without firing a shot. You can’t defeat thought with military weaponry.


Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

 

Jan 18 2019

…He Might Be An Informant

source: MLFA.org

Source: https://www.mlfa.org/think/
By MLFA
Oct 2015


[The following is by the Muslim Legal Fund of America, which is a charity that funds legal work and programs to defend Muslims against injustice in American courtrooms, prisons, and communities.]


 

What is an informant supposed to be and how are they supposed to be used?

An informant is an individual who law enforcement uses to infiltrate an existing criminal conspiracy or plot. These informants are used to fight crime.

What have informants become and how are they currently used?

Some informants operating in Muslim communities have become “agent provocateurs” — individuals used by law enforcement to entice, provoke, or lure innocent people into criminal acts. These informants are used to manufacture crimes.

Law enforcement should fight real crimes, not create fake crimes.

Informants often target vulnerable people who suffer from mental, emotional, financial or other instabilities. Impressionable young men with strong political views that differ from the current government administration are often targeted. These informants befriend someone with constitutionally-protected political grievances, and then exploit that friendship to convert grievances from tough talk to criminal acts.

People targeted by informants often have no previous plans or intentioned to commit a crime prior to meeting the informant.

“They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.” – Attorney Martin Stolar, who defended a victim of an FBI informant.

Why not just turn these people in to the police?

Civil liberties experts highly recommend that you never speak with law enforcement without having an attorney representing you. This is for your protection. Previous targets of informants have turned to law enforcement for help, but were turned away, ignored, and then later arrested.

What if the person is a real wannabe terrorist, not an informant?

If the person is an informant, you will need to safeguard yourself and your friends against the informant’s efforts to put you in prison. If the person is not an informant, but is a legitimate threat to the community, you will still need to safeguard yourself and your friends when reporting this information to law enforcement. In either case, you have a responsibility to report the incident to law enforcement, and you have the right to have an attorney representing you during this process.


 

Here are a series of videos which give extensive documentation and evidence of how the FBI tricks and entraps vulnerable and even emotionally or mentally-challenged Muslims:

Al Jazeera Investigates - Informants

 

Terrorism: Manufactured Threat | Interview with Trevor Aaronson

Inside Story Americas - Does spying on Americans protect the US?

Mosque Infiltration: FBI informant on dirty spy tactics

Getting it Right: Informants

FBI & Anti-Muslim Training

Terror Factory Author Trevor Aaronson at Columbia Law

Trevor Aaronson: How this FBI strategy is actually creating US-based terrorists

Jan 16 2019

Group Rights in the Ottoman ‘Millet’ System

source: funci.org

Source: https://yaqeeninstitute.org/en/tesneem-alkiek/
By Tasneem Alkiek
(Yaqeen Institute), March 2018


[The following is an excerpt from a Yaqeen Institute publication titled: “Tolerance, Minorities and Ideological Perspectives“. The citations have been removed here, but can be viewed on the publishers website.]


[U]nder Ottoman rule, an official millet system was established. The term millet was used to refer to communities of religious minorities, and eventually led to the standardized arrangement of a formal relationship between minority groups and the state. In other words, the Ottoman Empire developed a system in which millets had specific rights and responsibilities to state authorities in order to help define and ensure their legal autonomy. This system, which was refined over the course of Ottoman rule and eventually overturned in favor of a citizenship paradigm, is a prime example of a method that, while successful during its time (as will be demonstrated), ultimately succumbed to European imperialist pressures and demands to conform to modern forms of secularism and liberalism.

The millet system initially developed as a means by which the Ottoman administration could properly organize the various religious and ethnic groups under its rule. Incorporating these groups into the larger Ottoman economic and political system allowed for the preservation of the various cultural and religious identities these communities claimed. Thus, although the millet system required administrative and social reforms for each minority group, it overlooked ethnic and religious differences in order to maintain the Empire’s unity and productivity. It was no secret that Muslims still held the highest status under Ottoman rule, but in contrast to former Christian empires, the Ottomans never attempted to erase religious or ethnic identities through mass forced conversions, for example, in favor of sameness.

One of the most widely acknowledged aspects of the millet system was the appointment of official heads or patriarchs for each religious community.Every patriarch was appointed by his own community in order to ensure his authority vis-a-vis their respect and obedience; if he ever overstepped his boundaries, only they had the right to replace him. The head also had the dual responsibility of reporting to his Ottoman supervisor, usually the chief qāḍī or judge, and to his congregation. Members of his community, in turn, were required to bring all of their complaints to him in order to create an efficient process of filing and resolving claims. If there were members who could not afford to pay the jizyahfor instance, the patriarch would be responsible for granting financial aid and submitting the tax collectively on behalf of his entire community.

source: wikimedia.com

A Model for Tolerance

Despite the rights the millet system ensured, modern theorists have deemed this model deficient. In the late 20th century, political and moral philosopher John Rawls described the concept of religious tolerance in light of the liberal tradition as the individual choice to practice one’s religion freely or to change it as one saw fit. This freedom of conscience, or individual liberty, is considered to be the height of both tolerance and human rights. Will Kymlicka, another political philosopher, however, challenged this view that has been taken for granted in most Western democracies. Unlike the Rawlsian model which places the individual at the core of the argument, Kymlicka proposed a group-rights model, in which groups rather than individuals serve as self-governing units that are granted collective rights and responsibilities. His argument essentially boils down to the fact that group-rights models, like the millet system, were effective methods of granting religious liberties to communities as a whole, even though they may have restricted individuals’ opportunities to change or dissent from their original religion.

In the Ottoman embodiment of the group-rights model, the millets—primarily the Greek and Armenian Orthodox communities and the Jews—enjoyed self-government and legal autonomy. That said, in relation to the dominant religion of Islam, millets were limited in their public expressions of religion. Hence, under some circumstances, minorities were required to dress distinctly from the Muslims and could not proselytize. Nevertheless, the millet model allowed for religious coexistence and did not persecute those who obeyed their respective patriarchs as well as the laws of the land. This model is thus quite in contrast to liberal expectations espoused by Rawls, Locke, and others through its deep commitment to conservative and theocratic values, thereby uniting “church and state.” Through this system, the Ottoman Empire ruled vast territories, diverse in ethnicity and religion, for almost half a millennium, while avoiding religious wars and large-scale persecution, allowing Kymlicka to reason that the millet model “is arguably the more natural form of religious tolerance.”

The Rawlsian model, on the other hand, goes so far as to contend that individual liberty is the only way of ensuring tolerant and pluralistic societies, assuming that former methods (i.e., group-rights) could never guarantee this vision. Yet, as Kymlicka notes, religious toleration was indeed in effect prior to England’s Toleration Act or any universal declaration. 

While the millet system did not address Rawls’ individual liberty question, it was a model far ahead of any paradigm Europe had even considered. In fact, it was not until the signing of the Peace of Westphalia treaties in 1648 that Europe was able to end a century’s-long religious battle over whether it was possible for subjects to hold a religious belief distinct from the ruler’s faith. Hence, as Kymlicka points out, there were methods designed to establish tolerant and pluralistic societies prior to those of liberal democracies.

That said, with any group-rights model comes a concern for limited individual freedom in regard to one’s religious commitments. In other words, challenging one’s religious affiliation was virtually unheard of in the millet model; one was expected to follow the tradition one inherited and to fulfill the responsibilities set by the patriarch. Hence, proselytization and apostasy were, under certain conditions, criminal offenses. Adherents to liberal ideology, for this reason, may argue that this model curtails individual autonomy and consequently denies one the opportunity to think critically of their religion in their pursuit of the truth. This is presumably harmful for society since it removes rational thinking and choice, preventing individuals from pursuing their own interests for the sake of the larger society. 

The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes that every individual can properly assess what is good and is constantly seeking the benefit of their society. The group-rights model, on the other hand, presumes that the most powerful identity one holds is their religious affiliation. Since it was the absolute crux of holding society together, members of the community were expected to do everything they could to ensure the protection of that identity even if it overrode their own personal interests. Hence, there was no concern about the prohibition of proselytizing and apostasy since these were acts that would not merely harm the individual him or herself, but their community as a whole.

So what does this all mean for us? Well, for one, it allows us to recognize that the millet system created a template that recognized collective liberties and formed tolerant societies, despite our assumption today that tolerance is impossible without individual autonomy. From a bigger picture standpoint, however, creating tolerance between groups was see as more important than promoting individual liberties within a group. Thus group-rights models form a social plurality that ensures the protection of each community at large. Recognizing this alternative form of creating a tolerant society does not, of course, require us to insist that it is the only form. In fact, we can acknowledge the success of this system while still advocating for the liberal model of individual autonomy, as Kymlicka himself has done. The point is to be careful and not simply denounce historical Islamic communal and religious organization as intolerant or oppressive. The millet standard was not only successful in preventing religious wars, but it also granted collective liberties (e.g., their own courts, the right to practice their religion without interference, etc.) to each religious minority community.

 

Jan 13 2019

Illuminating Islam’s Peaceful Origins – 2 Book Reviews

Source: Adobe Stock

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/section/books/review
By Mustafa Akyol
(NY Times), Dec 2018


[The following is an excerpt of an article written by Mustafa Akyol where he reviews two books:

God In The Quran, by Jack Miles, 241 pgs, $26.95

Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires by Juan Cole, 326 pgs, $28

]


Is Allah, the God of Muslims, a different deity from the one worshiped by Jews and Christians? Is he even perhaps a strange “moon god,” a relic from Arab paganism, as some anti-Islamic polemicists have argued?

What about Allah’s apostle, Muhammad? Was he a militant prophet who imposed his new religion by the sword, leaving a bellicose legacy that still drives today’s Muslim terrorists?

Two new books may help answer such questions, and also give a deeper understanding of Islam’s theology and history.

To begin with, one should not doubt that Allah is Yahweh, the God of the Bible, because that is what he himself says. The Quran’s “divine speaker,” Miles writes, “does identify himself as the God whom Jews and Christians worship and the author of their Scriptures.” That is also why Allah reiterates, often with much less detail, many of the same stories we read in the Bible about Yahweh and his interventions in human history. The little nuances between these stories, however, are distinctions with major implications.

Through such scriptural comparisons, Miles gets to the core of the Abrahamic matrix: The monotheism that the Jewish people developed over the centuries was inherited by Islam and was turned into a global creed. All the national elements within Judaism, meanwhile, were then muted.

What about Christianity, the third, and the largest, piece of the matrix? It seems to be, just like Islam, a universalization of Judaic monotheism. But Christianity introduced a new theological element to the scene — a divine Christ and triune Godhead — which proved unacceptable to both Judaism and Islam. In the chapter comparing the Quran with the New Testament, Miles shows this by explaining how Islam rejects Christian theology, while showing great respect for Jesus Christ and Mary. He also sees “a brilliant symmetry” in how Islam combined Judaism’s criticism of Christian theology with Christianity’s criticism of Jewish particularism.

Non-Muslims who take the time to read the Quran may end up feeling a bit baffled, though. For they will hear a lot about Abraham, Moses, Joseph or Jesus, but almost nothing about the person they may be expecting the most: Muhammad. For while the Quran often speaks to Muhammad, it almost never speaks about him.

That is why the Islamic tradition developed a post-Quranic literature on the life and times of Muhammad, recorded in the books of sira, or biography. And a cutting-edge version of sira comes from the pen of Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and the author of the popular blog Informed Comment.

Cole’s book, “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires,” is not just eruditely informative, but also ambitiously revisionist, with two unorthodox arguments he keenly advances throughout the book.

Going against familiar if not frequent militant images of the Prophet Muhammad in the West, he portrays Islam’s founder as a peacemaker who wanted only to preach his monotheism freely and who even tried to establish “multicultural” harmony.

The first years of Muhammad’s mission, which he spent as the leader of an oppressed minority in Mecca, provides ample evidence to support this argument. The next decade in Medina, during which swords were unsheathed and battles were fought, complicates it. Cole solves the problem by advancing the explanation that modern Muslims typically offer: All these wars by the Prophet Muhammad were “defensive” in nature, fitting into a vision of “just war.”

 

[See Full Review HERE]

Oct 08 2018

The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging

Credit: DKlaughman, Flickr. CC 2.0 (This image has been cropped)

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=18506

By Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad
April 2018

 


[These are my notes from The Washington Forum Lecture Series* program on “The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging” held in Fairfax, VA on April 4, 2018. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription.]


 

Summary of the Introduction by Ustadh Anwar Haddam:

The first lecture in this series was on liberty and democracy. We need a clear vision. It should be society oriented to face the challenge and to benefit from the opportunity the challenge has provided.  Liberty and democracy must be the central focus for Muslims.

Liberty means, first, to be free to be what you want to be and, then, to be free to do what you want to do. Unless you are free to be who you want to be you are susceptible to manipulation in deciding what you want to do.

We look at the Islamic faith as a set of tenets that allow us to embrace the components of our internal identity without conflict. Islam is not only about rituals but has a mission-driven component.

Lecture by Dr. Esam Omeish:

Simply put the question of identity is “Who am I?” A person can have multiple identities that, collectively, make the individual.  According to psychology, belonging is near the top of the hierarchy of human needs: physical needs, security, and belonging. It is the need for love, welcome and acceptance. It is the stepping stone to esteem and actualization. Our identity determines where we belong. The act of belonging requires an ability to formulate a status that allows you to assess what belonging looks like.

We look at the Islamic faith as a set of tenets that allow us to embrace the components of our internal identity without conflict. Islam is not only about rituals but has a mission-driven component. The American experiment is a human experiment that we embrace naturally because we come from a background that embraces the same principles. We remain a community impacted by the same social factors that impact any community, but we have a mission to actually embrace the challenge.

We have recommended as a reading assignment A Nation of Nations by Tom Gjeltan (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015) in which he looks at Fairfax County as typical of the challenges and transformations immigrants have experienced. For immigrants, questions of identity and belonging are manifest. He selected my family and me as one of the examples, including the issue of Islam. There is a bit of each of our stories in this story. America could not reach its potential until immigration was recognized as one of its organizing principles. I believe that we have the resources not only deal with the challenges, but to be strengthened in our identity and belonging in the process.

We are adopting a broad definition of Islam not to enable us to restrict ourselves to a religious identity but because the expansive definition is the true one: Islam is a universal religion compatible with the human condition. The Islamic Civilization definition of our din is the realm in which we find our Islamic identity. It is important that we not view our Islamic identity as opposed to all other identities. In refusing to do so, we shall be be confronted by resistance within our own Muslim communities using arguments such as al-walaa wa-l-baraa (loyalty and disavowal, that is embracing that which pleases God and opposing that which displeases God).

Credit: Ilana Alazzeh (Flickr)

Al-walaa wa-l-baraa is irrelevant unless we distinguish that which opposes the Islamic religion from that which simply comes from outside the tradition. About half of our community are first generation immigrants and imams who address these issues without being aware of the cultural sensitivity involved will be unprepared for the backlash. Younger Muslims and the children of immigrants are better prepared to consider these issues, but they still want to know how Islam plays a role (what is its relevance?), like the young American who went to Algeria to learn how their understanding of Islam became a force in the resistance to colonialism.

Remarks by Ustadh Youssef Yaghmour:

We should not shy away from theses controversies. The Prophet (pbuh) addressed the disbelievers with “Ya kawmii,” (O my people). The compatibility of being an American with being a Muslim has become an issue, but questions of allegiance only arise in times of war.

The question am I a Muslim-American or an American-Muslim is the wrong question. The style of government in an empire-state is not the case in the world of nation-states in which we live, and it cannot be the model for our time.

If we see ourselves at war with the rest of our American community, then we have a bigger problem than a debate over identity, one that will affect how people look at us. Is there a conflict between being a Muslim and an Egyptian? Between being a Muslim and an Indian? Then why between being a Muslim and an American.

The question am I a Muslim-American or an American-Muslim is the wrong question. The style of government in an empire-state is not the case in the world of nation-states in which we live, and it cannot be the model for our time. There is an identity conflict between being a Muslim and an atheist, but not between being a Muslim and an American. That is a contrived conflict. I want to use Islam to help solve America’s problems, and there is nothing in this nation to stop that.

Comments by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.:

We can learn by critically observing the variety of experiences of the multiplicity of religions in this country as case studies of identity and belonging. The Jews integrated more as an ethnic group than a religion; the Amish insulated themselves from the “English;” the Catholics set up their own schools, dominated police departments and political power centers and openly challenged social policies of the Protestant majority; the Mormons homesteaded an entire state; the Quakers exerted influence as peaceful activists.

Credit: IslamicCity.org

The United States is unique among nation-states. It is the only one in which of the five factors that define a national identity (ethnicity, language, culture, language, and historical narrative) historical narrative thoroughly overshadows the other factors. That narrative is one of liberty and resistance to tyranny, and the immigrant experience is thoroughly intertwined with it.

Resistance to the state and even to prevailing public opinion is a major element of Americanism. White Supremacy was at one time part of the American ideology. While it as not been completely eliminated, the fight against it is hailed not as opposition to Americanism, but as a fulfillment of it. Thus Martin Luther King did not have to change the words of the Declaration of Independence, only to stress a single word, when he said, “All men are created equal.”

Even though Muslim immigrants understandably distinguish themselves from the African-American community on the grounds that the latter were forced to come here, we must recognize that their experience too is instructive and that they must not be excluded either as a model nor as participants in programs such as this one.

In addressing these issues we face resistance from both within and without the Muslim community. It is the resistance from within that is most difficult. Non-Muslim resistance is manageable if you know how to do it. I have lived in this country all my life. One of the most difficult challenges to belonging was my refusal to drink alcohol because it is considered a “social lubricant.” Declining to drink on the grounds that it is bad for you or because I do not like it only alienated those who offered it to me. But I learned that if I just said, “It’s against my religion” they were satisfied, because Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christian Scientists do not drink either. (And even Baptists, supposedly, some would say, are not supposed to.) Not so easily managed are Muslims like the one who anonymously called my office and told my employee, “Dr. Ahmad should not play guitar.”

 

*On January 30, 2018, some Muslims in the Washington, DC area initiated “The Washington Forum Lecture Series” to address the challenge and opportunity posed by recent events to Muslims in the USA and abroad by a new approach aiming at inspiring and leading change, instead of managing the status quo.

 

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Oct 08 2018

Gaza and the Future of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

credit: Latuff, https://latuffcartoons.wordpress.com/

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=18654
By: Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
May 2018


Nikki Haley has created a meme about the Israeli massacre of Palestinians demonstrating for the right to return to their homes at the Gaza border: “No country would act with more restraint than Israel,” she says with a straight face. Many countries would act with more restraint than Israel has, but let me not draw on just “any” country as the counter-example. Consider Donald Trump’s United States, which faced with a caravan of 150 Central American immigrants camped on its border with Mexico somehow manages to restrain itself from shooting them down in cold blood. And this despite the fact these would be invaders don’t even have the Palestinians’ excuse of wanting to return to their own  homes!

Rather than Israel, it is the Palestinians who have shown remarkable restraint. Had Nikki Haley the curiosity to ask what motivates the protests and what do they signal about Gaza’s future, she might ask Brian K. Barber, a fellow with the New America Foundation’s International Security program, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and Professor Emeritus of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee, where he founded and directed the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict. Barber is working on a book narrating the lives of three men and their families from the Gaza Strip who he has interviewed regularly for more than 20 years since they emerged as youth from the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-93).


At the New America Foundation on May 8, Barber sought to answer the question: Why would Gazans continue to protest after six weeks despite a harsh response from Israel? [The following notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription.]


His premise is that if the policy is to have harmony among the peoples of that region there must be peace of mind for those people and progress requires understanding what the ordinary person thinks and feels and why they do what they do. When he first went to Gaza in March of 1995, he realized that, although he is an experienced traveler, he was unprepared, naive, uninformed and misinformed, encountering nothing that he expected to find.Rather than harsh, vengeful, and devastated people, the people he met were friendly, pleased that he was there. Instead of psychologically dysfunctional youth, he saw a population functioning well. He says he learned to listen and warns one cannot understand what is happening inside Gazans’ mind unless you’ve been there. (Are you paying attention, Nikki?)

Gaza is about 25 miles long and averages five miles in width. There are only three viable crossings, two pedestrian and one for goods and materials. There is an outside fence that is either electrified or electronic (which is debated). The air is full of drones and the cyber-grid is controlled. There are eight refugee camps. He was commonly asked “Do you like Gaza?” and “Would you come back?” They are marginalized and ostracized and this hurts.

One young man said, “We can handle the electricity problems, the water problems and the sewage problems, but being made to feel subhuman is what really hurts.” About 80% of the population had their home raided at least once since 1987. The theory is that that such humiliation should quash their ability to resist, but instead it seems t

o trigger in us, “by no means in Palestinians alone,” an opposition and rather than quiet the population contributes to the willingness to fight for their survival as worthy human beings.

During his time there the occupation changed from direct to indirect. There is no more daily contact, apart from incursions. That is why you no longer see mass protests inside Gaza. Instead the protests have moved to the fence. The world ignores Gaza unless the situation turns violent or dramatic. Things are different in the West Bank. You can as likely find Gazans to protest against a political faction as against the outside occupation. There are a couple of million highly opinionated, but not monolithic, Gazans. When President Sisi took control of Egypt in 2015, he virtually closed the borders and the tunnels (called smuggling tunnels by some and supply tunnels by others) driving up prices and solidifying the physical restrictions on movement.

Palestinians are uniform in their desire for a home, self-determination, and justice, but they are not united as to what that entity should be like. There are divisions between the secular PA and various Islamic groups, but as recently as a few days ago Hamas indicate a willingness to recognize 1967 borders, etc. Until now Hamas has been successful in tamping down the more radical groups and rendering them ineffectual.

The Gaza Community Mental Health Program is very much alive. They are completing an impressive new building and continue their in and out-patient programs. At least 50% of Gazans are children or youth, which has an impact on the employment situation. At least 40% of the employable population is unemployment with little hope for improvement of job opportunities. The endemic industries (fishing, agriculture) are suppressed.

Things are different in the West Bank. You can as likely find Gazans to protest against a political faction as against the outside occupation. There are a couple of million highly opinionated, but not monolithic, Gazans.

A protester holds a placard as she stands next to Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israeli settlements in Beit Fajjar town south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 27, 2014. REUTERS/ Mussa Qawasma

 

The humiliation is not targeted at any particular group and poor and wealthy alike go through the same experiences. The youth have less historical memory to bring with them and have not experienced the level of direct humiliation their parents have.

Before Barber’s presentation, the volume of protesters has dwindled from 30,000 to 10,000 or less, but he correctly predicted that that would change on May 15 not only because it is the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, but because of the move of the U.S. embassy. He is aware of no evidence that this movement was part of or an offshoot of any broader movement rather than a Gazan demand of the right of return. Among Gazans basic rights has come to dominate the conversation over any particular political vision. He thinks Gazans are cynical of any political settlement being achieved especially under the auspices of the United States.

Gaza’s populations are concentrated in eight refugee camps, two major cities, and some small villages and towns. There are hundreds of schools. Education is a prime value for Palestinians.. The literacy rate is 95%. The UN predicted the environment would be unlivable by 2020. Sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean and leaks along the way, contaminating the aquifer. Parts of Gaza are still in rubble from the war. The solution requires lifting the siege, importing goods and materials and reviving the Gazan industries, especially fishing and agriculture. There is deliberate contamination of the agricultural field.

There is a historic sense of betrayal that goes back to the First World War. Gazans are aware of the machinations of realignments going on, but the everyday citizen has not the time or energy to compute that but the politically inclined do. The reasons for Gazans participating in social movements is not unique except in the degree that they have. Barber was present at the Egyptian Revolution and the dynamics were much the same. People were most thrilled not at the fall of the government but at the prospect of no longer being abused and humiliated by the police.

Gazans have had a lot of hope that someday things will be better. Barber thinks that hope has dwindled on the accumulation of evidence that nothing has changed. He doesn’t think the young people participating in these marches think that they will be allowed home soon and they are more motivated to symbolically demonstrate that they are here and that they deserve dignity. There is hope of reconciliation, although not soon; there is no hope that Palestine or Israel will change their policy.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Oct 01 2018

The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Senior White House Advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin applaud during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=18506

By Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad
March 2018


[These are my notes from the 2018 conference on “The Israeli Lobby and American Foreign Policy” held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 2. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription  The entire program may be viewed here.]



Grant F Smith (Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy). An Overview of the Israel Lobby Agenda

In 2012, the organizations that make up the Israel Lobby had 3.7 billion revenue, employed 14,000 paid staff, and 350,00 volunteers. Those numbers are all increasing. One asks why is the U.S. moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem now? In 1990s AIPAC got serious about passing a law to force the embassy move as a means of thwarting the Oslo peace process.

The “Jerusalem Embassy Act” passed in 1995 with a presidential waiver provision “to avoid separation of power issues.” President Clinton allowed it to pass without signing it. All major party candidates campaigned on moving the embassy, but until Trump all winners invoked the waiver.  In polls, Americans have never supported the move.

70 percent of Americans do not consider themselves to be Zionists, so maintaining a contrary illusion is important to the Lobby. Thus the importance to the Lobby of cultivating Evangelicals.

Now, the Lobby wants to pass a federal law equating certain criticism of Israel (especially on college campuses) with anti-Semitism. The “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” would withdraw federal funding from institutions of higher learning that permit certain criticism of Israel. 61 ercent of American polled knowing that major civil liberties organizations oppose this law also oppose it. The government increasingly punishes truth-tellers about Israel. The Dept. of Energy already has a gag rule that any U.S. government contractor or employee who writes or says that Israel has a nuclear weapons program will lose their job, security clearances and will be treated as a criminal.  That rule, WPN-136, impacts the nuclear proliferation debate.

70 percent of Americans do not consider themselves to be Zionists, so maintaining a contrary illusion is important to the Lobby. Thus the importance to the Lobby of cultivating Evangelicals. Support for Israel among college students has dropped 32 percent. On the other hand, support among Republicans has never been higher. Despite the wide partisan split, the Republican and Democratic platform planks on Israel are nearly identical.

Last year, Al-Jazeera’s investigation of the Lobby in the United Kingdom made a splash. They also did an investigation of the Lobby in the U.S. but the Lobby succeeded in suppressing the American report using threats that included “getting the U.S. government to deny landing right to Qatar Airways … [and] having the Justice Department register Al-Jazeera’s reporters as foreign agents [cutting] off their access to government officials and limiting their access to U.S. government facilities.”

The Lobby now seeks to criminalize support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement with fines of $1 million and sentences of 20 years in jail. It’s key backer Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) is heavily supported by Israeli affinity organizations.

There is also the issue of provoking confrontations with Iran. There was a Dec 12 secret agreement at the White House to take joint military action.

Source: veteranstoday.com

Massive unconditional foreign aid is on the table. 58% of Americans informed of the massive amounts of aid to Israel say foreign aid to Israel ($258 billion since 1948, even more than the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan) is “too much” or “much too much.”

 

Dr. Virginia Tilley (Southern Illinois University). Does the US Support an Apartheid State?

Why is the U.S. (as well as some other countries) supporting an apartheid state in Israel-Palestine? While international law does not define “apartheid state” it defines “apartheid” and one may ask if a particular state engages in the practice. Legal definition of apartheid: Article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines apartheid to include “inhuman  acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines the crime of apartheid to mean “inhumane acts …. committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli apartheid comprises a comprehensive system that ensures Jewish national privileges while dominating and oppressing Palestinians. Four interwoven discursive/territorial domains:

(1) Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote but not to eliminate Jewish national privileges nor their own minority status. in the question of their minority status.

(2) Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have no national vote and no secure residency.

(3) Palestinians in the occupied territories have no vote except for the Palestinian Authrity.

(4) Palestinian refugees and forced exiles are denied the right of return.

The system requires Israel maintain the occupation lest population mixing threaten the system. Annexation would also threaten the system. The vision of stopping apartheid by a two state solution is fatally flawed. Under the apartheid regime, any Palestinian State is a bantustan. The apartheid imperative is to prevent racial mixing, and that is served by the system. The main function of the security forces is to suppress dissent. Oslo Accord areas were almost identical to the South Africa bantustans. Mandela warned Arafat of this. Settler colonial apartheid is ended only by by eliminating settler domination and racial discrimination. Palestininian must be recast as a multi-sectarian identity.

Ian Williams. The Israel Lobby and the UN

There is a good reason the Lobby concentrated on the UN. They can’t get clear title without UN collusion. Remember East Timur. Israelis have a great respect for law, but in a Talmudic way of elevators that stop on every floor on the Sabbath. There are legal consequences to a finding of apartheid. Israel is the only state ever created by a UN resolution, yet they keep saying UN resolutions are not binding. We could say, “Amen!” In almost every resolution to which the U.S. is a signatory, Israel is an exception: nuclear nonproliferation, settlements, etc.

At least the State Department still won’t identify Jerusalem as Israel on passports. Israel is running for a seat on the Security Council as a “Western Europe and Other.” The Israeli Ambassador is on the Legal Committee which is like putting Casanova on the Chastity Committee. Israel is running against Germany and Belgium. I am concerned Belgium may be leaned upon to withdraw. Because the UN is so unpopular with certain parts of US community, it serves as a great fundraising device. We have seen this with the reports that get quashed. Remember Robert Goldstone.

But the embassy move is directly in contradiction to the UN charter. Trump has basically ripped up the UN charter. Yet at the same time Nikki Haley is arguing Iran is in violation of UN Resolutions. This is the road to World War III. UNWRA has been doing what Israel should be doing under the Geneva Conventions. The Israelis tried to keep Ban Ki-moon from going to Gaza, but once he went he was consistent that the drive against it must stop.

Noura Erakat (George Mason University; Jadiliyya e-zine; Journal of Palestine Studies). How Support for Israel’s Violations of International Law Puts the U.S. on the Wrong Side of History.

Anything that the law tells us can be subjected to controversy by a lawyer. Occupation Law has failed to stem settlement, but has been used to advance settlement. The settler enters the colony with an intent to stay, to assert sovereignty and to remove the native. Settler colonization is the framework for apartheid and occupation toward the end of replacing the native with the settler.  In the late 18th century, annexation fell into disrepute, but in any case annexation would require Israel absorbing the Palestinian people, making them the majority.

Rather than annex or occupy the land Israel claims the land is sui generis (distinct and unlike any other category), that the Palestinians are not a people and there is a sovereign void in which this is an occupation not by law but by fact, allowing them to incrementally take the land under two legal fictions, temporality and military necessity. The civilians are temporarily and indefinitely present, meaning that it is not permanent and yet has no end. The U.S. is central to this interpretation because the U.S. recognizes occupation as a matter of law but has failed to act accordingly seeking instead to maintain an Israeli qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

The Johnson administration also inaugurated the “land for peace” framework enshrined in UN resolution 242. When Israel attacked and destroyed the Egyptian Air Force the issue of whether that was an act of aggression or a pre-emptive strike is pivotal. Johnson disagreed with Eisenhower’s Sinai policy that forced Israel (and its allies) to withdraw from the Suez Canal. Johnson saw the 1967 War as an opportunity to revisit the issue. In every UN draft resolution except the one that finally passed the definite article “the” appears before “Occupied Territories.” Its omission in the final draft allows the flexibility of “defensible borders” for Israel. This would not have been possible without Palestinian presence and acquiescence. It is the realization of autonomy without sovereignty. This has been rejected by the international courts, the Security Council, and human rights organizations, yet it stands because of American policy.

Panel on Suppressing Free Speech

Dr. Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University). Challenging the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Pushing Back Against Jewish Exceptionalism Politics.

The effect of this bill is to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and Zionism with Judaism. The backers of this bill are less concerned with fighting white supremacy than with suppressing criticism of Israel. They conflate of Israel’s right to exist with its right to exist as a Jewish State at the expense of non-Jews within its borders. In the same way they conflate rising pro-Palestinian activism on campus with bigotry against Jews. We must distinguish actual Israeli power from historically imagined Jewish power. Broadening the definition of anti-Semitism will only making fighting actual anti-Semitism more difficult. We have to see anti-Semitism as part of the history of modern bigotry rather than as something unique.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi (San Francisco State University). How and Why the Israel Lobby Is Suppressing Free Speech and Academic Freedom on College Campuses.

Dr. Abdulhadi demonstrated Dr. Trachtenberg’s point by describing in detail how the Israel Lobby has smeared pro-Palestinian activists at San Francisco State University, herself included.

Source: digitaljournal.com

Thomas R. Getman. When and How Did Evangelicals Become Zionists?

Dr. Getman said that he himself was a complicit Evangelical Zionist, albeit an unwitting one. Many years working in the Middle East opened his eyes. “Those who lay traps get their own feet ensnared.” American Christians speak in two theological languages. Mainstream Christians, and Evangelicals even more so, operate in a 2000 year-old tradition involving not only creed but social justice, but Zionism operates in recent one starting in the 19th century aimed at moving all Jews to Palestine towards the end of advancing the End Times.

This view purports Christians suddenly disappear, presumably to Heaven, and Armageddon follows and then a 2000 year reign of the Messiah. In the process two-third of Jews are killed and the rest convert to Christianity. Even Billy Graham declared himself as agnostic as to the end times, but silence in the churches has allowed Palestinians to be defined by the Zionists. 

Christian Zionism preceded by 50 years and influenced the development of Jewish Zionism. “How did we arrive here? The 200 year progression of this history is at once instructive and frightening. The law of Love has been replaced by violence.” It is the fault line running through Western civilization. “The majority has been silent. We must stir them up…. It is bad for Israel as well as America’s place in the free world…. It is important to see the progression of  Christian Zionism’s development. It has roots at least as far back as the 16th century European reformations.

The early literal readership of the local language translations like the King James Bible, later in Scofield reference editions, had footnotes and commentary that promoted dispensational Zionism. It led to several centuries of anti-Semite Jewish persecution, ultimately the Holocaust, and all the way to mid-twentieth century best-selling fictional works of The Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind.” Eccentric British restorationists lacking formal theological training led by John Darby “began to lobby for Jewish return to Palestine as the necessary precondition for the Second Coming of Christ.” They gained traction in the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French, and German colonial interests.

“These Christian Zionists who preceded Jewish Zionism were some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates and ironically were both clergy and lay people who embraced the anti-Semitic theology and genocidal images around racial nationalism.” Herzl had an understandable resentment and anger over treatment of Jews in the previous centuries, but he undergirded his appeal to the British with misinterpreted scripture. Arthur Balfour and Lloyd George were predisposed towards Zionism, but their primary goal was the advancement of British imperialism. Billy Graham remained silent, not warning of the dangers. Harry Truman was influenced by his dispensations beliefs but even more by the campaign and Zionist contributors.

Dispensationalist interpretation gained impetus with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967. The election of Ronald Reagan, a convert to Christian Zionist beliefs was important. 9/11 sealed the marriage as both feared and hated Muslims. With the election of Donald Trump arose a movement against Christian Zionism among mainstream Christians. The Israeli Lobby is increasingly seen as an agent of the foreign power, especially as BDS has caused Israeli and American legislators to turn to Draconian suppression. The arc of history is being bent towards justice and young people, now even among Evangelicals are turning towards social justice texts.

The promise that “God will bless those who bless you” was made to Abraham, not to Israel. The theological stance of Christian Zionism is now being explicitly rejected and even a body of Evangelical Christians has expressed unease at moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Evangelicals are working to reform or abandon their brand to distinguish themselves from the Michael Pences and the Roy Moores. “Anglican theologian Nadeem Atiq states we must oppose Christian Zionism by asserting one clear principle: ‘any religion that does not promote justice, truth, peace, justice and reconciliation among people has lost its rudder and is undeserving of respect. Their religion and teachings are a destructive rather than a liberating force in the world.”

Gideon Levy (Ha’aretz). The Zionist Tango: Step Left, Step Right.

Credit: Ramy Osman

“The only place on earth that Donald Trump is beloved, admired, adored, and  appreciated is Israel. The only place that Benjamin Netanyahu is admired, adored, beloved is the United States. If this is not shared values, what is …? I can tell you in the United States, as an Israeli, we don’t have a bigger enemy than the” Israeli Lobby. One has no worse enemy than the one who thinks it is an act to friendship to supply the addict with more drugs. He finds it hard to understand from the outside how an ideology became part of the DNA. He knows of no other case where an ideology is so unquestioned. The only difference between left and right in Israel is one of rhetoric. Labor and the left have a different rhetoric, but at the end of the day there is no policy difference. Shimon Perez could not stop talking about ending the Occupation, but he was the father of the settlements project.

The old joke that two Israelis share three views is no longer valid. “Today three Israelis share hardly one view…. Even Israeli propaganda has lost its shame.” If Israel has sunk so low as to claim that the wound from shooting a child in the head actually came from a fall off a bicycle, then you know things have hit bottom. “In many ways the leftists are worse than the right wingers because feel so good about themselves” because they are not fascists, but they believe the crimes must continue “because we have no choice.” Levy thinks four values explain everything in Israel. First the belief that “We are the chosen people.”

International Law is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t apply to Israel. Second, Israelis are not only the biggest victims but the only victims. Levy cannot recall another occupation in which the occupiers consider themselves the victims. Golda Meir could “never forgive the Arabs” for forcing her to kill their children. Third, there is a deep belief that Palestinians are not human beings like us. They don’t love their children like us; they don’t love life like us. Fourth, the lie that the situation is temporary. Our dreams will never come true as long these core issues do not change. Soldiers who bravely testify about the crimes they committed in the occupied territories lead to nothing. At least the left has some kind of commitment to democracy for Jews, but there is no incentive for change within Israel. Levy says his only hope is people like this audience.

Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a big victory for Israel and the Occupation. What it means is the U.S. has officially declared the funeral of the two state solution and that America cannot be a fair mediator. Levy sees it as he end of the hypocrisy. He says he feels sorry for Amb. David Friedman who must now move from a beautiful villa on the sea to Jerusalem, but adds that “he deserves it.” What better gift than to see him in midst of Orthodox and the soldiers than before the sea in Herzliya. Levy asked what kind of society criminalizes any one who speaks out for justice and praises those who violate International Law. He calls Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) the only game in town.

One has the right to boycott what deserves boycott. Look how nervous Israel gets about BDS. That shows you it is the right way. We need you desperately to expose the lie that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It does not deserve to be called a democracy at all. Finally expose the lie that this is all temporary. The occupation is there to stay. This colonialist project has no intention of ending.

For many years Levy supported the two state solution as a reasonable if imperfect solution. Today there are six million Palestinians and six million Jews between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Zionism’s core principle is that one people is privileged over the other. That is apartheid. Let’s challenge Israel to equal rights and to one person one vote, and when they say no they will have indicted themselves as an apartheid state with no desire for democracy.

In response to a question from the audience he said the occupation could not continue for even a few months without American support.

Andrew Kadi (U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights). The Palestinian BDS Campaign. What It Is, How It Is Growing, and Why the Efforts to Stop It Will Fail.

In 2005 a wide range of organizations formed the BDS coalition aimed at enforcing ICJ ruling on the wall and settlements. This is rights-based discourse influenced by discussions with South Africans. Unlike the South Africa boycott there are some exceptions to BDS.  The website is Bdsmovement.net.

 

Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada). Israel vs. Russian Media Influence.

Hilary Clinton was entirely capable of losing the 2016 election on her own. In 2006, two days after the Palestinian elections she told Jewish Press (that’s the name of a publication, not a conspiratorial code phrase), “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake. And if we were gong to push for an election, we should have done something to determine who was going to win.” 

We are more locked out of the mainstream media than ever before, but the mainstream media is less powerful than ever before and the alternate media stronger than ever before. They are still strong but we have broken their monopoly.

That’s what Russia stands accused of, but Max Blumenthal and Aaron Matte have shown there is nothing there. What the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about is Israelgate, where there is lots of evidence of collusion. Michael Flynn spoke to Russia on behalf of Israel at the behest Jared Kushner as a favor to Benjamin Netanyahu. Steve Bannon is quoted in Michael Wolfe’s Fire and Fury that the entire Trump policy on Jerusalem was dictated Sheldon Adelson.

That Adelson will buy the U.S. embassy is treated as something normal. The Russiagate hysteria helps the Israeli propaganda machine. RT was forced to register as s foreign agent, which strangely AIPAC has not done. In October Al-Jazeera revealed that they had done an undercover investigation in the U.S. akin to the one they did in Britain in which they busted an Israeli plot to bring down the British politicians. The RT registration is being cited as the precedent to force Al-Jazeera to register as foreign agents.

Qatar and the Gulf states see the Israel lobby as the shortcut to Washington’s heart. Abunimah is willing to bet we are going to see the Al-Jazeera documentary, but only if we keep up the pressure. Electronic Intifada leaked two reports from ADL and another anti-BDS organization saying that despite their twenty-fold increase in spending to suppress the BDS movement they have been unable to do so.

All decent people are deserting their cause and rather it is the far right of Richard Spencer’s that is flocking to support Israel. Young people, including American Jews and even young Evangelicals are fleeing. I used to think it was a waste of time to talk to Congress but my mind as has been changed in part by the No Way to Treat a Child campaign. It prohibits use of US aid to be used for the detention and torture of Palestinian children. It now has 21 cosponsors. We are not powerless against the Israel lobby.

We are more locked out of the mainstream media than ever before, but the mainstream media is less powerful than ever before and the alternate media stronger than ever before. They are still strong but we have broken their monopoly.

Jefferson Morley (author of The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton). CIA and Mossad: Tradeoffs in the Formation of the US-Israeli Strategic Relationship.

James Angleton was an avatar of the Deep State. He embodied and shaped the CIA ethos. Deep State is a colloquial term for the array of intelligence agencies that operate covertly. The oversight is weak. Secret government is the norm in America. As a student at Yale he shared anti-Semitic sentiments of Ezra Pound, but the Holocaust transformed his attitudes when he joined the CIA he became Chief of Foreign Intelligence.

While sympathetic to Jewish suffering, he was wary of Israel as untrustworthy in the Cold War. In 1950, Reuven Shiloah the founder of Israel’s first intelligence organization visited the CIA and organized what would become Mossad. Angleton became the CIA’s exclusive liaison with Mossad. His Israeli friend were the architects of the Israeli state. While he was seen as divisive in the CIA he was uniformly admired in Israel “as a stalwart friend.” His rise in the CIA got a huge boost when the Israelis provided him with a copy of Khrushchev’s secret speech to the Communist Party criticizing the cult of personality around Joseph Stalin. His “formative and sometimes decisive influence on U.S. policy towards Israel can be seen in many areas from nuclear proliferation policy in the region to Israel’s triumph in the ’67 Six-Day War, to the feeble U.S. response to the attack on the Liberty, to the intelligence failure represented by the Yom Kippur War in 1973.”

Although the relationship of Angleton and Israel is enormous, one very important question is “why didn’t the CIA help the FBI investigate the diversion of U.S. weapons-grade material from the United States to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s? And The short answer is because Jim Angleton didn’t want them to. He played a key role in helping them to obtain nuclear weapons… He was not a man to investigate himself…. Angleton thought collaboration with Israel was more important than non-proliferation.” His friend Meir Amit called him “the biggest Zionist of the lot.”

Source/Credit: Adam Bilzerian

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (formerly with U.S. Army and Department of State). Is the US Ramping Up Its Military Presence in Syria and Preparing to Attack Iran for Israel?

Is the U.S. ramping up its military presence in Syria in preparation to attack Iran on behalf of Israel? We believe that LBJ knew not only of the Israeli attack on the Liberty, but its diversion of U.S. nuclear materials. Avigdor Lieberman is the living face of Netanyahu’s policies. A Russian emigre, he is reminiscent of both Dick Cheney and Joseph Stalin. He is at the forefront of promoting this new war. Lieberman, Netanyahu, and their acolytes in this country (e.g., Nikki Haley) have declared that it is in the best interests of the U.S. to commit to make a regime change in Iran. Wilkerson believes that “the legitimacy of great power” is what Israel desires, and what Saudi Arabia and its “new boy king” desires. The excuse for war will be “Iran’s alleged existential threat to Israel in Syria, Hezbollah’s accumulation of some 150,000 missiles, the need to set Lebanon’s economy back … (look at what they’re deliberating right now regarding the new very, very rich gas find in the eastern Mediterranean)….”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Sep 28 2018

The State of Islamic Education in the United States

credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=18174
By: Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Feb. 2018


[This is a summary of a panel discussion held at the Cato Institute on February 1, 2018 featuring Shafiq Siddiqui (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) and Sabith Khan, California Lutheran University discussing their newly published book on their research on Islamic schools in the U.S. The discussion was moderated by Neal McClusky.]



Shafiq Siddiqui opined that Islamic schools were more energized by the events of 9/11 and the Great Recession. The economic crisis had a negative impact but prompted Muslims to look at the experiences of other educational institutions and led to more public engagement.

Sabith Khan described the methodology of their research. They had to create a comprehensive database of Islamic schools. The sector is not exceptional. They comply with tax laws and some are accredited; they struggle within the community. It is an unsettled question: what is an Islamic school? Some don’t apply for subsidies of school choice because they don’t want to or know how to deal with the paperwork.

Siddiqui noted that there is no majority ethnic group among Muslims in America. This is the seventh wave of Muslim immigrants and the first to survive. Within the broad ethnic spectrum there are seven schools that are African-American. There are two or three Shia schools. Shias will attend the Sunni schools, which is reflection of the economic difficulties of setting up schools, but it also reflects the Qur’anic verse “We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).” (49:13)

Khan reported that the schools also have non-Muslim students and teachers, and that they often are started at mosques or Islamic centers and often remain as part of them, whereas in other cases they become separate institutions. The degree of diversity varies. There seems to be a lot of ecumenical behavior, more concerned with hiring those who believe in the mission than those who believe in the faith. Siddiqui added that one can find teachers who do not practice the faith instructing children in their responsibilities in the faith.

Siddiqui said that all four of his children graduated from public school but went to Islamic elementary school so they could learn Arabic. They memorized at least one thirtieth of the Qur’an. The biggest criticism is that Islamic schools are trying to isolate their children but the administrators of those schools work to achieve the opposite, arranging sports leagues and debate competitions with other schools.

Khan noted that it has been said that Indians live simultaneously in the 13th and 21st century and opined that the challenge is how to be true to your traditions in the current era. Civic engagement within a religious community correlates with civic engagement with the broader community.

Neal Mcclusky observed that there is evidence that private schools do a better job of teaching the civic values we want public schools to teach but that the popular perception is different. He asked how Islamic schools deal with the fear that they may be inculcating extremism or violence. Siddiqui quoted one Islamic school administrator as saying, “We don’t have time to teach extremism.”

…when there is a scandal in the nonprofit sector it affects the whole sector and when there are charges of extremism against an outlier Islamic school, whether true or false, it affects them all. Yet, at the same time the number of allies and defenders against such generalized attacks has grown.

Khan reported that some schools are going away from Islamic branding. Siddiqui said that Islamic schools look for ways by which they may be accountable such as tax filings, accreditation and applying for government funding and voucher money. Many schools use the same textbooks as public schools, except for Islamic studies.

I asked whether their systematic research supports my personal anecdotal observation that the Islamic schools tend to increase in diversity as they grow and then split into more homogeneous schools that again diversify as they grow. Siddiqui replied that divisions are more over ideas or personalities than ethnicity.

Credit: The America Center CC: 2.0

Siddiqui said that there are Muslim accrediting agencies. He was uncertain as to the fraction of graduates who go on to college and graduate schools, but believes it is the 90 percent range.

Siddiqui observed that when there is a scandal in the nonprofit sector it affects the whole sector and when there are charges of extremism against an outlier Islamic school, whether true or false, it affects them all. Yet, at the same time the number of allies and defenders against such generalized attacks has grown.

Noting that there are Christian schools that have used controversial books, McClusky asked if there is a benefit to society to including a wide variety of schools in a school choice program. Siddqiui replied that since funding is the number one barrier to Islamic schools, administrators would support school choice. As a participant in two schools that went from pre-choice to a choice situation, he has seen its success as an equalizer. He thinks the UK, Germany, and Belgium allow designation of where some tax dollars (not a lot) can be directed, and argued that we have to trust our country a little more, saying that it was established on a set of ideas, the positive power of market forces among them. He thinks we have enough regulations and civic society oversight to deal with the risks of choice without fearing inclusion of Islamic schools.

Siddiqui noted that there was a big push to establish Muslim charter schools, but he recommends against creating a charter school only as a means of funding because you will face lawsuits if your intention is to preserve Qur’anic Arabic and Islamic studies. However, if, like the Gulen movement, you do not wish to establish an Islamic school but rather to “enhance the society,” then charter schools are appropriate.

Khan acknowledged that there is a definite lack of special needs education. He asked a cab driver how he was able to send three children to Islamic schools and he said they waived 80 percent of the charges. Once a school reaches a certain maturity it can start to offer such benefits.

Siddiqui noted that by and large Islamic schools are less expensive than secular private schools and more affordable, relying on philanthropy. School choice laws are complicated; vouchers allow you to increase tuition and some programs would prevent discounts to the poor.

Siddiqui reported that no Shia schools responded to the survey. They did not ask questions along ideological lines. There are a small number of schools that break down along those lines. He doubts one could get enough liberals or salafis to make a purely ideological school as they do in England. He joked that you can’t even find another person in the community who likes the same sweetness in his tea as you do. Khan explained that the operating definition for the survey was schools that defined themselves as Muslim.

Credit: The America Center CC: 2.0

Siddiqui opined that by and large people send their children to Islamic schools do better than those who go to other schools, but that Muslim nonprofit organizations in general have to be better nonprofits. Khan quoted a board member of a mosque and Islamic school in Tennessee who asked, “Why should I file with the IRS when I am only accountable to God?” Siddiqui thinks that he is an outlier.

Khan said that there are schools and mosques challenging the norms of gender segregation. He added that there are enough sources within the tradition to challenge these norms without having to go outside the tradition.

They did not study weekend schools, which are products of Islamic centers. Islamic centers are not regulated. In the schools studied, principals and teachers are predominately women. The challenge of gender within the Muslim community exists but the challenge of gender within this country exists. Khan  fought for women as an attorney and knows the horror stories; but he said to apply them to all 2,200 of these schools is not justified. Gender inequity is a problem both Muslims and Americans have to solve.


Watch the Cato event video here.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Sep 21 2018

Putting Sectarianism in Perspective

Political Map of the Middle East (Photo Credit: ErikaWittlieb. CC 2.0 )

        Source:  http://blog.minaret.org/?p=17842
By: Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Nov. 2017


[The following are my notes from a panel discussion with Nader Hashemi (Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor of Middle East      and Islamic Politics at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies) and Danny Postel (Assistant Director of the Middle East and North African Studies Program at Northwestern University), editors of the new book Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East. presented at the Middle East Institute on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. The program was moderated by Paul Salem, senior vice president for policy research and programs at MEI.]


Nader Hashemi  argued that ancient sectarian hatred is a lazy orientalist explanation. He offered “sectarianization” as a better term than that static trans-historical term “sectarianism.” You cannot understand the current crises unless you understand authoritarianism rather theology as the root of the current conflicts in the Middle East. It is the perpetuation of political rule by the employment of sectarian identity.

There are three ways of approaching the issue: Primordialism,  constructivism, and instrumentalism. Constructivism occupies the middle ground recognizing (as does primordialism) some immutable features of religious identity but recognizing also (as does instrumentalism) the roles of elites in mobilizing religious identity. The questions that must be addressed are: Why are these conflicts intensifying now and why in some places more than others? Why have Sunni-Shia conflicts erupted recently?

 

Ruling elites are not necessarily committed to defending a theological view or the interests of a particular religious group. Sectarianism is not an inherent quality of Middle Eastern history. Rather, political entrepreneurs capitalize on sectarian divides.

 

Vali Nasr notes that in the past the state was viewed as a passive actor responding to struggles between subgroups. Drawing on research from South Asia, Nasr argues that state actors see political gain in the conflict between sectarian groups. The key claim of the book is that sectarianism in itself fails to explain the complex realities of the conflicts in the region that are rooted in development issues explained by political actors in pursuit of political gain. The refusal of political elites to share power below is a better explanation.

Ruling elites are not necessarily committed to defending a theological view or the interests of a particular religious group. Sectarianism is not an inherent quality of Middle Eastern history. Rather, political entrepreneurs capitalize on sectarian divides. Recent conflicts in the US have been more racial than sectarian, but demonstrate a similar point. Trump played the white nationalist card to mobilize people around his political agenda. Politics in the Middle East and U.S. are not the same but they have this in common.

Danny Postel noted that in 2006 the most popular political figure in the Sunni Arab world was Hassan Nasrallah. This seems inconceivable today. 1979, 2003, and 2011 are critical turning points. There is nothing intrinsically religious in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. The Yemeni conflicts of the 1970’s had nothing to do with sects but with ideology, with Iran and Saudi Arabia siding with monarchs and Egypt with the leftist rebels.

Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in the 1980’s and the U.S. encouraged transnational Jihad in Afghanistan. To say that the bombing of the Imam Hassan shrine in 2003 started the current sectarian strife is an exaggeration, but it has a point. After Saudi execution of Imam Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in 2016, Iran vowed holy revenge on the Saudis.

 

In Syria the regime blames Sunnis and in Bahrain the regime blames Shias. The Saudis engage in a classic scapegoating move, it is not us but the other sect that is the source of your problems.

 

Scholars say there was a Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011, but the demands were bread and freedom and had nothing to do with sects. Alawis, Kurds, Atheists, etc., all joined the rebellion. The crisis was precipitated by live ammunition fired at peaceful demonstrators. The same thing is happening in Bahrain. In Syria the regime blames Sunnis and in Bahrain the regime blames Shias. The Saudis engage in a classic scapegoating move, it is not us but the other sect that is the source of your problems. Within three days of the Trump-Saudi “Orb fest” in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Egypt read the love fest as a declaration that “America has our back.”

Paul Salem noted that 1979 was the final stage of Egypt’s departure from leadership of the Arab world as well as the rise of Iran. Until then socialism and Arab nationalism were the central issues. As people turned away from economic and ideological markets did religion replace them? Iran turned a religion perspective into a political project. The same can be said of ISIS which claims that its religious interpretation is profound. For the Shi’a in Iraq and Syria, sect was a means of advancement. He conceded that authoritarianism is the pattern of the region, but asked how to distinguish those regimes for which it is not a tool, such as Sisi or Algeria?

Hashemi responded that in Egypt the Sunni-Shia divide doesn’t exist because there is no mix of populations there. 1967 is the main turning point at which the promises of secularism started to fail, and you see the turn to politicized religion. Socialism and nationalism had cross-sectarian support. The sectarianism card is the regimes’ favorite card to play against the demands for democracy. The narrative they offer the international community is that the problem in their country is not authoritarianism but external intervention and in some cases extremism.

Postel noted that now there is a kind of nostalgia for Arab nationalism, but it failed for a number of reasons including that it never ran deep. The masses never really embraced it. If they were really salient could they have been defeated by a single military defeat (the ’67 War)? Hezbollah redefined itself by its involvement in the Syrian crisis. There was no ISIS when Iran and Hezbollah sided with the Syrian regime.

“Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Arabic: المسجد النبوي‎ [mæsʤıd ænːæbæwiː] “Mosque of the Prophet”), often called the Prophet’s Mosque, is a mosque situated in the city of Medina. (Photo Credit: Omar A. CC 2.0)

Hashemi says the first step is for the killing to stop. There must be a vision for how to exit the authoritarian status quo, some constitutional vision. The international community must play a more constructive role. We must realize that the Faustian bargain we struck with these regimes is the source of, not the solution to, the problem.

Postel observed that the U.S. had signed off wholesale on the Saudi narratives that all the problems are due to Iran. The Iran nuclear deal is related indirectly to the sectarianism because both the Saudis and Israelis flipped out over the deal.

In the Q&A I remarked that the it is interesting that the one group relatively most committed to Arab nationalism had been the Palestinians who lost most directly from the ’67 War. I also mentioned the role of the West in encouraging the Syrians to resort to armed rebellion against the Assad regime by predicting that he would fall within months. (The Israelis said “within weeks.”)

Postrel took strong exception to my observation insisting that comments about Assad falling from power were “aspirational” rather than predictive. In a conversation with Postrel after the event ended, I informed him of my personal knowledge of how the Syrian opposition took such predictions seriously and that they posed an obstacle to those of us who thought that the best strategy against Assad was to keep the opposition peaceful until he lost the support of the Syrian Army. Such was the pattern of the fall of a number of Middle Eastern dictators from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia. Postrel insisted that the pattern could not have worked in Syria because Assad’s family is too closely intertwined with the military establishment.

On that he and I shall have to agree to disagree and it is my position that brutal as Assad’s attacks on peaceful demonstrators were, the use of violence (albeit in self-defense) by demonstrators and the subsequent civil war that opened the door not only for Assad’s continued military slaughter of his civilian population but for the air and ground forces of a variety of foreign actors as well as the terrorist activities of ISIS and other such groups has been a more tragic consequence for the Syrian people. I do not believe that Assad by himself could have killed so many people in the absence of a civil war without losing the support of the people he would have had to in order to do the killing. I also do not believe the “sectarianization” problem would be as bad as it is at this moment.

 

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Aug 26 2018

The Man Who Saved A Generation

Source: http://www.networkradio.us/man-saved-world
By Fadi Malkosh
(Network Radio), May 2017


[The following is a excerpt/repost of an article written by Fadi Malkosh (Founder and Author of Network Radio), titled “The Man Who Saved The World“. The title has been renamed for Muslim4Liberty]


On August 20th 1935, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Ronald Ernest Paul was born.  Son to Howard-Casper and Margaret Paul, two German immigrants who ran a small dairy farm.

And on that day, the future generations were handed a universal gift that they had not expected and have yet to fully appreciate; a young Ronald Ernest would grow up to be the galvanizing cornerstone for freedom and liberty across the globe.  Ideas that have been written off as fringe, philosophies fading throughout time, and movements that remained opposed by the establishment for decades, finally began to break into the public spotlight.

Sparing the details of this man’s unparalleled list of prolifically virtuous actions (as this isn’t a biography piece, but rather an article of recognition), The Man Who Saved [a Generation] would go on to become the forefather of liberty today.

In order to fully appreciate this notion, one would have to truly consider the basis of libertarianism which rests on the shoulders of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP); “an ethical stance which asserts that “aggression” is inherently illegitimate. “Aggression”, for the purposes of NAP, is defined as initiating or threatening the use of any and all forcible interference with an individual or individual’s property.”

On that note, the offspring of libertarianism splinter into many factions and almost entirely share the value of small to virtually limited (and often times non-existent) government; it is expressed in the forms of free-market economies, freedom of association, private property rights, global trade, non-intervention, self-defense, and a staunchly anti-war philosophy of peace.

These innately humanistic virtues may have been convoluted and eroded by the state, but today we see a sergeancy of various libertarian philosophies.  To better illustrate this point, the notion that “Taxation Is Theft” (a basic yet adored libertarian principle) has for the first time in modern day history become mainstream, and is even labeled in some circles as a “libertarian tip“.

That said, we do not credit Ron Paul for these ideas, as the NAP philosophy dates back to Epicurus (300 B.C), and later on even through Islamic scholars such as Ibn Tufayl, whom would influence John Locke to write in The Second Treatise of Civil Government: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” 

The NAP philosophy would continue on to be heralded by Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard.

As a student of Rothbard and other notable libertarian philosophers, Ron Paul spent nearly fifty years of his adult life, carrying the mantle of freedom and liberty on behalf of humanity.  Although he ran for president on a libertarian ticket in 1988, and continued to be an active voice in congress for nearly three decades, the libertarian party along with its NAP roots never found a spotlight in the mainstream.

Enter 2006; as a presidential candidate for the Republican Party during the 2008 elections, Ron Paul began to galvanize and unite a rabid following of American citizens weary of the 2003 Iraq war and the growth of America’s national debt, police state, and encroachment on civil liberties.  Attracting young voters from all walks of life, Paul’s campaign was heavily blacked out and viscously attacked by mainstream media and establishment politicians.  Yet, the more Paul was written off, the stronger he became a magnet for disenfranchised and even apathetic voters.

Not noticeable to outside circles, however, the people that became entrenched in the Ron Paul “LoveRevolution” at the time, would witness one of the most infectious and fastest growing factions in modern day history. Forwarding to the 2012 presidential election, Ron Paul had curated and cultivated such a rabid and loyal base, his supporters were able to literally infiltrate the GOP on a grass-roots level, and sway the election in such a powerful manner that only those looking from the inside would able to appreciate or even comprehend the sheer velocity of it.  It took the GOP far more than slander, blackout, and lack of all decency to silence Paul’s rise; they had to literally change the rules of their platform overnight in order to (for a lack of better words) steal the election from him, and hand it to Mitt Romney.

Frustrated, all of the Ron Paul supporters would seek advice from him, pondering, wondering, hoping; “how do we get Ron Paul in the White House?” “Who do we elect next time?” “How can we help him get in?”

Yet, Ron Paul’s response to his crowds (just as his response was to the mainstream pundits whom questioned his electability) has always been about the message itself, and not him.  To Paul it has always been about “spreading the message of liberty”.  His fans and supporters adored him, yet they couldn’t grasp the true meaning of what he was saying.

Frustrated, the Ron Paul base kept trekking.  And in a matter of months, what seemed like defeat, became true revolution; his platform would inspire many notable public figures to run and win various positions.  Bloomberg made a nice early illustration on that. Following suite, we see a new breed of Ron Paulites in congress; Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Mike Lee, and his son Rand Paul.

After an eternity of work, Ron Paul’s message started to truly resonate in the mainstream. Libertarian ideas and conversations about “free markets” became popular talking points, the issue of the Federal Reserve became a global issue, enough to warrant president Donald Trump to endorse.

Paul made popular the idea that polarized-issues such as abortion, can be left to the states, advocating the 10th amendment.  While personal choices (gay marriage for example), shouldn’t be dealt with by government in the first place; advocating the notion that marriage is a religious ceremony.

Even the most dangerous political landmine known as Israel, was a smooth skid, as Paul brilliantly advocates “sovereignty” for Israel, his justification for ending foreign aid and military intervention, citing that the US is meddling with Israel’s right to self determination.  An area that nearly every political persona (including his son Rand) has a hard time criticizing without scathe.

After the 2012 election, what started as a campaign to elect one man, became a colossal force known as  “liberty movement”.  From campaign, to Tea Party, to Young Americans For Liberty students, to the Libertarian Party, Anarcho-Catpialism…etc.

Now there are many various factions, but all formulate the liberty umbrella. And all of them recognize the need to rein in the state.  Any Ron Paulite will assure you, that the liberty movement has been exponentially growing by leaps and bounds.  Words and expressions for those that are in the liberty movement, known to them, are gaining mass appeal; “End the Fed”, “Taxation is Theft”, “Free Markets”, “Statist”, “Who Will Build The Roads”…

Dr. Ron Paul was right, and he knew it; today it rings true that it was indeed all about the message. As Ron Paul still continues to put out material through Ron Paul Peace Institute For Peace And Prosperity, it seems that his work is rather not so much in the spot light as it used to be; there was a time where Dr. Paul couldn’t cough without every one of his supporters knowing where he did so.  Yet even though his spotlight is diminished, the love and respect has only been further embraced, and the liberty movement is now more powerful and autonomous as it ever was…

“An idea whose time has come, can not be stopped by any army or any force.” -Ron Paul

Man’s next frontier is a world with stateless societies.  And as the liberty movement continues to expand, the words of George Washington echoe with us: “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”

Future generations will look back and marvel at our current narrative, where we are a society that willingly commits itself to its own perils.  They will be thankful for the gatekeepers that kept humanity progressing, they will laugh and joke about a time where every man was born with a tax ID.  They will wonder how humans with so much wealth of knowledge, couldn’t own a home or start a business without government consent. They will shake their heads in awe, at how much we would have been without the state being there.  And they will be thankful for The Man That Saved [a Generation]: Ron Paul.

Today we stand united.  The liberty movement is as powerful as its ever been, and it is continuing to thrive. We are the liberty, we are the movement; and today, we are Ron Paul.

Aug 18 2018

Imran Khan’s Journey to Understanding Islam and Liberty

Source: http://www.arabnews.com/node/217634
By Imran Khan
(Arab News), January 2002


[The following is an excerpt from an article written in 2002 by Imran Khan (the 2018 elected Prime Minister of Pakistan). Originally titled “Why the West craves materialism & why the East sticks to religion“, the article details Khans personal struggle to harmonize his understanding of both Islam and liberty in a way that is true to his Islamic faith and Pakistani heritage]


My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite gaining independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached. Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals.

I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled, humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups.

Hence, it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him.

the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the disadvantages of both societies.

In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions — two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of our existence and two, what happens to us when we die?

It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only life then one must make hay while the sun shines — and in order to do so one needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.

I will try to explain as concisely as is possible, what “discovering the truth” meant for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says, “Those who believe and do good deeds.” In other words, a Muslim has dual function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings.

Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one, I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them, one controls them.

By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov-wielding fanatic.

I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.

Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in our society. According to the Qur’an, “Oppression is worse than killing.” In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the will of Allah, you have inner peace.

Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.

What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs that are banned in the West.

One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam.

What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extreme. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.

Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is “no compulsion in religion.” However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism. Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be solved.

The Qur’an calls Muslims “the middle nation”, not of extremes. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of forcing your opinions on anyone else.

Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam, especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

Jul 19 2018

Squaring the SCOTUS Decision on the Muslim Ban with the Masterpiece Cakes Decision Is a Disturbing Exercise

Source: http://blog.minaret.org/?p=18935
By: Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
June 2018


When confronted with many interesting and important questions about how to weigh religious freedom against the government’s place in fighting invidious discrimination in the Masterpiece Cakes case, the Supreme Court of the United States chose to sidestep all questions but one. They said they didn’t need to decide whether a creative designer of cakes should be forced to create a cake designed to celebrate a marriage unrecognized by their religious tradition.

They insisted they don’t need to decide if this cake shop is depriving gay people of a public accommodation. All they needed to know was that the government agency that made the decision was overtly hostile to the religious views of the person they ruled against.

While some of us were disappointed that the Court elected to dodge other important questions for the time being, at least, we thought, this bodes well for their upcoming decision on the Trump travel ban, for Trump’s hostility to Muslims has been trumpeted even more loudly and clearly than the Colorado Civil Rights Division’s antipathy to Christians.

Oh, how naive we were! It turns out Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kennedy, Roberts, and Thomas sing a different tune when the victims of overt hatred belong to a religion other than their own. Now, the public statements and tweets of the discriminating agency are suddenly irrelevant to the text of the administrative ruling.

Instead they want to address whether the President has a right to fight terrorism by controlling immigration. (But not does the Colorado Civil Rights Division have a right to fight homophobia by regulating cake sales.)

The President’s open hostility to Muslims is ruled irrelevant on the grounds that the means used to implement it are “ineffective,” banning a mere 8% of the world’s Muslim population.  (This makes as much sense as saying the KKK can’t be accused of racially motivated terrorism because they killed less than 8% of the black population.)

The Court acknowledged that the wisdom of the ban as a means of fighting terrorism was debatable, but insisted that the Congress must address that issue. In America’s system of separation of powers, however, it is the judiciary that is supposed to protect the Constitution.

Embed from Getty Images

This Congress, in particular, has shown no capability of standing up to an executive branch bent expanding its power. We are left, ironically, to rely on the people themselves to stand up to the threat of populism, as they did when they flocked to the airports to defend American values and the immigrants who came here in search of them during the first Muslim ban.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is the President and Director of the Minaret Institute of Freedom and the author of Signs in the Heavens: A Muslim Astronomer’s Perspective on Religion and Science. He teaches courses on Islamic religion, history and civilization and religion, science and freedom at Wesley Theological Seminary and a course on “Changing Views of the Universe” at American University.

Mar 17 2018

3 Countries, 4 Continents, 46 years, and handcuffed for this?

What My Arrest One Year Ago Taught Me About America

By Hesham El Meligy
March 17, 2018

“Will I be made an example of and get labeled a terrorist? Will I end up in Guantanamo? Will I lose my job and spend time in jail? These questions rushed into my mind when I was arrested at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on March 8 of last year, leading to two summonses, three court appearances, and almost a year on edge fearing the worst.

I was going to my office in Manhattan after a few weeks out of town on assignment. I parked my car at the New York Wheel Garage, took the shuttle bus, then walked down the stairs with fellow passengers, entering the terminal shortly before 8 am.

As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, walking toward the waiting hall, I noticed an NYPD officer had his eyes on me; something I experienced quite often since 9/11. When I got close, he extended his arm briefly to stop me, and ordered me to their table outside the hall to search my backpack.

At least since 9/11, along with stop and frisk, the NYPD often send officers to randomly search people. These are not fixed police posts or times; when the brass decides, they send the officers, with a folding table and a sign, to a subway station near you, or in this case, the ferry terminal.

I was dressed professionally; not that dressing otherwise is of itself a good reason for suspicion, but others around me were also carrying backpacks and purses. The way this happened and the officer’s body language made me feel I was being profiled.

I found myself responding to the officer by saying “no, thank you”. My response surprised the officer and I. “Sir, I’m not asking you”, the officer said, signaling that I must comply or else. I began to panic, fearing the repercussions of challenging an abusive authority. As an American Muslim activist who has been involved in combating civil rights abuses for over a decade, I am keenly aware of how my life can be ruined for challenging abuse of power, and how I can be portrayed negatively by the government and media. Adrenaline was gushing into my veins, and you would think I was shouting, but my knees were shaking when I replied to the officer, “No, thank you!”, followed by, “Why did you pick me? Why not this one, or that one?”, pointing at other people.

The other officers gathered, the wave of people coming in to take the boat ballooned, and it became a scene. After a few minutes, I was given a choice to either submit to the search and take the ferry, or leave the terminal. I stood my ground, refusing to be profiled and refusing this violation of my, and everyone’s, rights. They immediately put me in handcuffs, and the entire random search squad led me away to a corner of the terminal, where I was frisked and searched, my wallet and pockets emptied and the contents looked at and counted.

I have lived and worked in three countries, been to four continents, and was never arrested in my 46 years till that moment.

If this was about security, why was I given the option to leave the terminal without search? And why did they take down the table, stopping the random searches as soon as they arrested me, when the terminal was swarming with people with all kinds of backpacks, purses, and even suitcases? If I was a bad guy with a bomb, for example, I would have exploded it when I had a dozen officers and hundreds of people around me. Or I could have been a distraction to allow the real perpetrators to go unnoticed.

Random searches are a weak deterrent at best. It is a show of force, giving some people a false sense of security, while sacrificing the rights of others, and what the forefathers fought for and enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The concept of random searches is a direct violation of the text and spirit of the 4th amendment. It is an example of what happens when governments use law enforcement to control the population and extort them through tickets and fines. This is not to serve and protect, and it is not about safety.

In addition, we all have internal biases that influence our decisions. We might not be aware of this influence, but when it comes to law enforcement, without strong mechanisms to minimize it, people’s lives can be ruined. I don’t believe the officer woke up that day and decided to profile people, but this random search policy allow biases to play a role.

In an airport, all passengers get screened, it is not random, and it is full time, not a temporary table set up and taken down at will. Yes, there are abuses in secondary screenings, but everyone gets that first screen.

To achieve true randomness, single file railings should be installed and maybe every fifth person should be picked for search. That would prove a complete waste in a short time when grandmothers and toddlers are the lucky number five.

Fear of terrorism is purposely inflated and turns most of us apathetic. But the fact is, in the United States, it is 400 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack. In other words, if you lose someone to a car accident every month, you lose someone to terrorism every 33 years. Is this really worth living in constant fear, under constant surveillance, going through check points, and turning America into the Soviet Union?

Those who understand the consequences of allowing these violations to go unchecked usually swallow a great deal of abuse daily. We choose our battles so we don’t end up worse. But, on that day, I guess I finally snapped under pressure. Living in post-9/11 America, many law enforcement practices are police state tactics that we rail against when other countries engage in. Most Americans don’t understand why the forefathers included the 4th amendment, despite the dangers and threats to America back then. It was one year before America was born by gaining independence from King George’s abuses when Benjamin Franklin said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The two summonses I received were for trespassing and disorderly conduct. First time in my life as well, but think about that. Trespassing in a public area of a government-run travel facility? And disorderly conduct for standing up for my rights? To the officers’ credit, they did not mistreat me at any point. When I calmed down, the few remaining officers and I had a cordial discussion about the constitution, the 4thamendment, terrorism, and more. Before I left to take the 8:45 am boat, I embraced the officers and believe we left on good terms. I also let them know it was not personal, but the problem is some of the policies they implement, which infringes on people’s rights and are contrary to the founding documents.

Suspicion of a crime should be the basis to stop someone, but someone’s color or perceived ethnic or religious background is not. This random search policy is a waste and an infringement on people’s rights, violating the constitution. It must be abolished and replaced with good policing.  In part two, I will explain how I was labeled a terrorist enabler and almost got myself convicted in court.

 

Link to my own video explaining what happened, with links to my other 3 posts about it:

https://www.facebook.com/MeligyXXI/videos/vb.540428220/10155122682893221

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Hesham El-Meligy is the Chairman of the Staten Island Libertarian Party and co-founder of Muslims for Liberty (Muslims4Liberty.org).  Hesham was the Libertarian Party nominee for NYC Comptroller in 2013, and is host of the upcoming show “Vantage Points with Hesham El-Meligy” (VantagePoints.tv).  He was born in Cairo, Egypt, where he graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He is an interfaith and community leader, founder of the Islamic Civic Association, co-founder of the Building Bridges Interfaith Coalition, and recipient of the Peace Maker Award from Peace Action in 2009.

Audio

The Call to Freedom 1-17-2016

 

Will and Davi are joined by special guest host Dax Ewbanks with the OK-LP and OK Liberty on Tap, along with special guest academic Imam John Yahya Ederer of Tulsa, and OK Muslim activist Priscilla Gaulston Khader.We discusss price fixing, and collaberative effort as a sunnah.

May 31 2017

Help M4L Bring Ramadan and Eid to One of the Largest Liberty Festivals in the Country

 

By Will Coley
May 2017

In the age of Trump it is foolhardy to let opportunities like this pass us by.

This year we will be bringing a close to our Ramadan @ Porcfest series, with a big bang!! (no pun intended) We’re celebrating Eid this year at the Porcupine Freedom Festival!! 

Thousands of people from around the US and Canada, come to the White Mountains of Lancaster New Hampshire to camp and meet with the biggest media names in the liberty community. Once again we’ll be there isA handing out 1000’s of Eid meals to festival goers. Each night we offer a small meal, and then on the last night of the festival a HUGE Eid dinner for everyone to enjoy.

We create new allies for the Muslim community

Previous Ramadan events at Porcfest have resulted in huge gains for the American Muslim community, some that many of us don’t even realize exist.

As a direct result of our work, the liberty movement in general and even the Libertarian Party itself have become some of the strongest voices to defend Muslims in America.

Big name media personalities like Ian Freeman, Mark Edge, Jeffrey Tucker, (and many others) have become staunch defenders of the rights of Muslims after enjoying a steaming hot iftar meal prepared and served by Muslims 4 Liberty volunteers, so much so that “Ramadan@Porcfest” has become a central part of the yearly event.

Last year at Porcfest XIII a piece of property was even donated by a festival attendee for M4L assistant national director Davi Barker to open a new mosque in Keene, NH.  

Build new bridges, while offering a free meal

The Prophet(saws) was once asked “What is the best action in Islam?”. He(saws) replied, “To feed the people, and greet those whom you know, and those you do not” … and that’s exactly what we do. 

The money we raise will go to pay for food, lots of it. Enough to feed close to 3000 Ramadan/Eid meals to festival goers at the close of Ramadan this year. Culminating FIVE amazing years of dawah work, and sharing the Ramadan experience with thousands of non-Muslim political activists and media personalities.

On the final day of the festival we plan to slaughter two locally sourced goats, one which will be prepared and served for an Eid celebration for festival goers, and the other will be prepared and served at a local homeless shelter by festival volunteers and M4L staff. 

Imagine the blessing in not only making sure a staff of a dozen daee have a chance to celebrate Eid, while doing their work, but also assisting them in providing bowls of hot food that mean so much more than a full stomach. Help us establish and practice this sunnah. 

Every dollar donated helps buy a bowl of food. 

Putting something like this together is not easy, the logistics of cooking and serving thousands of meals to strangers is a nightmare, but we do it because of the blessings it contains and because it works. Sharing a meal with a fellow child of Adam breaks down barriers and creates friendships and relations that can last a life time. 

We keep our food costs extra low by offering traditional Indian vegetarian options, but when you add in travel costs, festival fees, and incidentals( like needing an extra pot or replacing a rained out canopy) the cost to bring this food to the masses ends up being about $1.25 a bowl. 

That means something as simple as $12 can help us reach 10 people, 10 new allies, 10 new defenders of the Muslim community in social media as well as in online, print and radio outlets. Defenders and allies our community could greatly use at this time. 

Our Ramadan at Porcfest series has made amazing gains over the last five years. It has helped M4L establish a national Muslim-hosted radio show, land multiple media interviews, produce the first Muslim VP candidate, acquire donated property for a mosque in Keene NH, and the list goes on and on… YOU could be a part of the next chapter!!!

Please Donate TODAY!!!!!

May 31 2017

A Summary of: The Exhumation of Classical Liberal Principles In the Evolution of African Societies

By Ibrahim B Anoba
M4L Contributor
May, 2017


The following is a summary of longer paper published in the Journal of Liberty and International Affairs, Vol 3, No 1, 2017, eISSN 1857-9760, accessible HERE


The absence of technically organized ideologies in traditional African societies made several historians resolve that pre-colonial Africa had no clear patterns that governed behavior except the unearthing of some ancestral practices. Writers like George Dalton identified the inability of Western economists to draw clear parallels between economic systems in traditional African societies to theories developed in the West as primary course to this conclusion (Dalton 1997, 27). Unlike Europe or the Americas where sufficient texts written by generations of historians exists on the cultural and philosophical evolution of the society, it rarely does so in Africa.

Most knowledge on the evolution of African philosophy is preserved in arts, tales and other literatures passed from one generation to another. Other evidences especially in archaeological folds rarely exist to corroborate some of the traditional narratives. Empirical inquiry into African philosophy never surfaced until around mid-1900s, most notably when catholic Father Placide Tempel published his La Philosophie Bantu (Bantu Philosophy) in 1945 as a response to the misconceptions about the Bantu people of West Africa. Tempel’s book set the premise for subsequent studies in African philosophy.

Continued investigations by African writers later revealed that the absence of ideological details noted by Dalton and others actually existed in African communities but can only be studied with cognizance to social structures such as religion and kinship (Ayittey 1991). Similarly, nationalist intellectuals observed that the only philosophy in traditional Africa was the philosophy of brotherhood and welfarism, which prevented anyone from becoming more prosperous than everyone else. They practically rejected all notions of self-determinism or personal ambition as non-existent in traditional Africa. They also claimed a strongman leadership of interest as the choice of governance in these communities.  In their accounts, the supreme leader or council held the right over the life of every member of the community and served as the judges of morality.

Suppression of Liberalism and Capitalism

Understanding the dimensions of the African nationalist struggle is a prerequisite to uncovering why socialism and communism took root in Africa. The fight for independence in Africa centered on two things: to rid Africa of Western imperialism (by all possible means including war), and to develop the economy and cure poverty through radical socialist reforms. Of course, this was at the height of communism in places like Cuba and the Soviet Union. With the obvious resentment towards the imperialist West, it was better affiliating with the communist East to firstly, ensure their stay in power and secondly, to institutionalize a system for effective wealth redistribution. It eventually made African nationalists become heavily attached to the communist bloc. They collaborated in adopting economic and social structures of the communist states that would later prove disastrous to nation building in post-independence Africa.

In tracing the reasons for this easy radicalization, the massive exploitation of Africa under colonialism (starting from the 1870s) was in fact a primary factor. The fattening and industrialization of Europe on the back of Africa’s human and natural resources offered capitalism a ‘theft’, and an imperialist ideology intended to further subject Africa to continuous economic exploitation. This unfortunately coincided with a time when capitalism received immense glory for Western industrialization – with Africa beneath the shaft. Logically, any idea that had been responsible for Europe’s prosperity – even other that capitalism would have certainly been an enemy of Africa.  

What is the Real Tradition of Africa?

Contrariwise, the philosophy of traditional Africa was not in any way relegated to principles in socialism or communism, but greatly extended to principles advocated in classical liberalism as is explained here. In African antiquity, the socialist-communist model was not observable across all communities as claimed by the traditionalists. In some groups, authority was not central, while in others, they never even existed. Group members were entitled to self-determinism, as many of these communities were either stateless or acephalous. Some had well-organized administrative structures without monarchs or a centralized ruling elite council.

In communities such as the Tallensi (Ghana), Logoli (Kenya) and Nuer (South Sudan) there were no institutions that regulated social life but they were purely anarchic (Evans 1940, 5). In communities with clearly defined systems of governance, the majority of them had structures for institutional ombudsman and separation of powers among governing councils. These communities also treasured standards for checks and balances to avoid power concentration or abuse by an individual or group. Political decisions of the community rested on the harmony of opinions among council members while individuals typically determined economic decisions of the community.

Even in communities with centralized authorities, independent institutions limited governance, which is contrary to claims of an overall common authoritarian pattern. In the political fold, governance only existed to whatever extent public opinion agreed. Most political decisions greatly depended on consensus among chiefs, councils, or the public as it were, with cognizance to individual judgment. This individual judgment was present in the form of household representative democracy. Every member of the community belonged to a household, and their opinions formed household interests, which was subsequently represented in councils by their elders or nobles. Former Zambian and Tanzanian leaders, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere resolved to this fact:  

Kaunda: In our original (African) societies, we operated by consensus. An issue was talked out in solemn conclave until such time as agreement could be achieved. Nyerere: In African society, the traditional method of conducting affairs is by free discussion. The elders sit under the big trees, and talk until they agree (Wiredu 2004).  

Clear enough, traditional Africans were resentful towards fortification of an individual to act as sole representative of choice and interest even if the individual was a representative of the gods.

Classical liberals outrightly argued for a free market economy chiefly run by individual choices and price, and this was a position common in most economies in traditional Africa. Markets were open and less regulated. In centralized communities such as the Buganda (Uganda), Hausa/Fulani (Nigeria) Akan (Ghana) and the Zulu (South Africa), there were large and open markets such that it attracted participation from communities hundreds of miles away. Trade ensued among communities in their specialized industries with limited or no restrictions, and one can safely deduce that elements of David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage Theory – a cardinal in classical liberalism – existed in these communities even before it was theoretically developed in Europe.  

Many traditionalists still see classical liberal principles as rather anarchist even though some African communities flourished under anarchy. Or they view liberalism as adversative to traditional African principles: a sort of threat to Africa’s historical identity. But unlike the total anarchy assumption, classical liberals proposed an impartial system of justice in the custody of the state, and in trust, with some monopoly of force (if needed) to guarantee relative balance (Butler 2013). This was the exact structure in most of traditional Africa. Leaders and governing councils were guardians of values and preserved the justice system through impartial adherence to laws while public revolt was an option against tyranny. Like many other race in human history, traditional Africans despised tyranny. The central authority only existed as representative of the gods on earth, to guide the living in the right conducts only. And as Otto Lehto explained, “in addition to being a doctrine of maximizing free and voluntary human cooperation, classical liberalism is a doctrine of legal limits to coercive actions” (Lehto 2015).  In African tradition, the individual was as important as life itself, and the respect for his dignity was a virtue. The only difference was that they saw the realization of individual prosperity as more realistic when embedded in the prosperity of his community. Even Kenneth Kaunda, a staunch African humanist agreed when he said:   

I am deeply concerned that this high valuation of Man and respect for human dignity, which is a legacy of our [African] tradition should not be lost in the new Africa. However “modern” and “advanced” in a Western sense the new nations of Africa may become, we are fiercely determined that this humanism will not be obscured. African society has always been Man-centered. We intend that it will remain so (Eze 1997, 42).

His submission serves well an historical correction for contemporaries.  

Conclusion

Falsely accusing classical liberal principles as the sole responsible factor for Africa’s present socio-economic predicaments is false. Africa’s woes are solely due to political greediness and distortions from continued experiments with socialist ideals.

We can fairly conclude that the negative influence of colonialism was in fact a cementing factor for the sporadic inclination of Africa in anti-capitalist sentiments and not because Africans were not naturally capitalists or that capitalist principles never existed in traditional Africa as presented by most philosophers. Therefore, there exists an indisputable correlation between classical liberalism and traditional African philosophy.

 

References

  1. Ayittey, George. 1999. Indigenous African Institutions. Accra: Transnational Publishers, Inc.. (Ayittey 1999)
  2. Butler, Eamonn. 2015.Classical Liberalism – A Primer. London: Institute of Economic Affairs & London Publishing Partnership Ltd.. (Butler 2015)
  3. Dalton, George.1997. “Economic Theory and Primitive Society in American Anthropology.” In, Postcolonial African Philosophy. A Critical Reader, edited by Eze C.E. 27-61. Massachusetts: Blackwell. (Dalton 1997)
  4. Evans, Pritchard and Fortes, Meyer. 1940. African Political Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Evans 1940, 5)
  5. Eze, C. E. 1997. Postcolonial African Philosophy. A Critical Reader. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers. (Eze 1997, 42)
  6. Lehto, Ottm. 2015. “The Three Principles of Classical Liberalism (From John Locke To John Thomas.” PhD diss., University of Helsinki. (Lehto 2015)
  7. Wiredu, Kwasi. 2004. A Companion to African Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (Wiredu 2004, 252)

 

May 31 2017

Islam and Classical Liberalism: Are they Compatible?

Source: http://www.learnliberty.org/blog/islam-and-classical-liberalism-are-they-compatible/

By Mustafa Akyol
(Learn Liberty), April 10, 2011

 

In [the] classical age of Islam — say, from the 7th century to the 19th century — there was at least one gain in terms of liberty: Muslim states did not have a single law of the land. They rather had multiple legal systems to which individuals would be subject based on their religion. In the Ottoman Empire, for example, the Sharia was binding on Muslims, whereas Christians and Jews had their own laws. While alcohol was forbidden to Muslims, it was allowed for Christians.

In the modern era, theocratic states such as Saudi Arabia have taken a much worse step by making the Sharia the law of the land. That is how Islamic commandments became binding on non-Muslims as well. Thus, Christians visiting Saudi Arabia from abroad may not drink or even possess alcohol — or, alas, even a copy of the Bible — for example, and are subject to imprisonment for violating the law.

Yet in the same modern era, there have also emerged reformist Muslims who call for revisiting this whole idea of state religion. These reformists — my humble self being among them — argue that the marriage of Islam and the state is just an accident of history, not a requirement of religion.

They emphasize a key Qur’anic verse, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:258), and argue that the Sharia must be reinterpreted in light of this principle. Compulsion, they add, breeds not genuine religiosity but only hypocrisy. Jihad, they argue, is only a justification for defensive and just war, not a warrant for aggression and conquest.

This reformist argument makes sense to many Muslims around the world and is promoted by plenty of scholars, intellectuals, movements, and parties. (Tunisia’s recent success was made possible partly because its main pro-Islamic party, En-Nahda, is led by Rashid Ghannouchi — a prominent Islamic scholar who takes the “no compulsion in religion” principle seriously.)

The Limited Muslim State

While Muslim reformists argue against certain aspects of the Islamic tradition, they embrace other aspects of it. One of them is a little-noticed but crucial feature of the Sharia: It [shariah] was not a law devised by state power. It was rather a law devised by religious scholars who were often independent of state power.

That is why and how, throughout the long centuries of classical Islam, the Sharia often acted as a constraint on arbitrary rule and became the guardian of rights. (It is not an accident that in Arabic, the term “law” translates as huquq, which literally means “rights.”) The rights that the Sharia protected included property rights. This protection was crucial at time when despotic states could typically plunder wealth at will.

To further consolidate the protection of private property, medieval Islamic scholars developed a version of the legal doctrine of trusts. This allowed the transmission of wealth across generations through the creation of the charitable foundation, the waqf, which was legally immune from governmental interference. The result was a vigorous civil society, including charities, hospitals, and schools, all supported by the private foundations that were under the Sharia’s protection.

The medieval Muslim state, in other words, was a state limited by law. Thanks to the sanctity and independence of the Sharia, a form of checks and balances was established that allowed nonstate institutions to flourish. If there was a big secret to Islam’s much-praised golden age, it was this notion of a limited state.

Today, what are we supposed to understand from this whole legacy of the Sharia? A good answer comes from a theory developed by a 14th-century Islamic scholar named Imam Shatibi. He studied all injunctions of the Sharia and reasoned that the “intentions” behind all of them could be rendered to the protection of five values: religion, life, property, intellect, and lineage. Reformist Muslims often take these “five intentions” of the Sharia as the guiding light and argue that any state that protects them — and is constrained by them — is welcome regardless of whether it is “Islamic” or not.

Islamic Capitalism

There is one more area to consider: the economy. What kind of economy does Islam envision? Answers among Muslims vary, as there are defenders of so-called “Islamic socialism.” Others, however, argue that if there is a specific Islamic model of the economy, it is certainly capitalism.

This argument for capitalism is partly rooted in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Before the beginning of his religious mission at the age of 40 in the city of Mecca, he was a successful merchant. This meant that he saw the blessings of trade and understood the mechanisms of the market. No wonder he has many recorded sayings in which he promotes trade and praises the “honest merchant.”

The same spirit can be found in the Qur’an. It is quite notable that the longest verse of the Qur’an (2:282) is about how to write a proper loan contract with the right witnesses.

In a remarkable episode in Prophet Muhammad’s life, we also read that he was asked by his faithful believers to regulate the increasing prices in the marketplace. He responded negatively, saying: “Only God controls the prices.” Some later commentators have seen a spirit here similar to Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

The protrade spirit of Islam’s prophet and scripture led to the rise of a financial and commercial capitalism in the Middle East in the early centuries of Islam. Some inventions of this “Islamic capitalism” were later borrowed by Europeans. (That is why, for example, the English word “check” comes from the Arabic word saqq, which means “written document.”)

In his remarkable book Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism, economist Benedikt Koehler documents all these economic achievements of Islam. “The roots of Chicago economics,” he even argues, “lie in seventh century Medina.”

The decline of this medieval Islamic capitalism — due to many factors, including wars, invasions, and the change in trade routes — led to the overall decline of Muslim civilization. The Muslim world stagnated, lagged behind, and ultimately panicked in the face of a much more advanced West. It is a trauma that is still alive and kicking. And the solution lies in revitalizing the capitalist creativity of Islam’s golden age.

Muslim Liberals

None of this means that classical liberalism is a popular idea among Muslims today. Quite the contrary — there are very powerful illiberal, statist, autocratic trends among Muslims, not to mention the violent extremists that threaten us all.

But a defense of classical liberalism on Islamic grounds is possible — and is not unheard of. Many Muslims, especially those living in the West, accept classical liberal ideas intuitively. Moreover, there are initiatives dedicated to this cause, such the Minaret of Freedom and Muslims for Liberty in the United States, the Islamic Renaissance Front in Malaysia, and the Liberal Islam Network in Indonesia. They are led by Muslims who are serious about their faith and who are genuine in their commitment to liberty.

Such pious Muslims can usher a reform in Islam toward “no compulsion in religion” and freedom for all. This concept of freedom is not something that will be poised against God. Quite the contrary: it is a freedom that is bestowed by God.

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