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Interview

President Barack Obama once again refused to label the fight against terrorism as a war on radical Islam or any kind of "religious war," insisting that such labels hurt efforts to root out radical ideologies in Muslim communities. Obama also cautioned against the risk of overplaying the threat of terror groups and said the U.S. should instead align itself with the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject the radical ideology and tactics of terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda….

 

My husband is an activist and the founder of the "Free Saudi liberal network". Raif believed in the freedom of speech and the respect of other beliefs. The main reason he launched the network is to promote debate and discussion about lots of topics in Saudi society. He is accused of lots of things. In my opinion, Raif's detention is unjust and they should re-try him and set him free. All he was asking for was freedom of speech. And because he wrote that down, he was thrown in jail…..

One of the keywords in France is ‘laicite’, which means public life should be separated from religion. This often goes with ‘assimilation’, which, in people’s minds, means everyone should be like the mainstream, Franco-French, and all differences should be erased. People forget France has been populated over centuries by very different ethnic groups. Things are paradoxical. France is the country of the Revolution, human rights — but it’s always had a problem with its minorities, Protestants, Jews, Roma, now, Muslims…..

The Faith of the Islamic State
Students of Habib University

…the black banner with the Islamic creed written on it. In all its simplicity, it echoes the most basic claims of Islam as a system of belief and world order. Furthermore, it underpins IS’s claims to represent the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s spiritual and physical heritage. It thereby serves as a symbolic transfer of the Prophet’s (PBUH) authority as a religious and political leader of the first Islamic State in Medina. By and large, this visual sign, notwithstanding — or precisely, because of — its simple graphical structure, is heavily charged with meaning and compels notions of prophetic succession, rebellion, unification as well as of revenge and annulment of dishonouring actions which have remained in the collective memory of Muslims….

 

I mean, this may have started off as a popular uprising in Syria, but by now it has four or five different conflicts wrapped into one, that—and you have an opposition, but an opposition which is fragmented and really proxies for foreign powers, notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Turkey plays a role. What has changed recently, since midsummer, is that Saudi Arabia is becoming the main financier for the rebel military groups inside Syria. Qatar is playing a lesser role. And the Saudis are trying to develop a Sunni Islamic force that is against the Assad government in Damascus, but is also against al-Qaeda. But this is, even so, very much a sectarian force, which is already being blamed for sectarian attacks on Christians and Druze and Alawites. There, then, of course, you also have the United States and Britain and France…..

 
Arab Spring Has Now Turned Into a Winter
Gilbert Achcar
Arab Spring Has Now Turned Into a Winter
Vidya Venkat

Progressive forces need to be bold enough to dare to struggle and dare to win. If radical change does not come through them, we will only get what I called a “clash of barbarisms”. Syria is the clearest example of this presently with the Syrian regime on one hand, and IS and Al-Qaeda on the other. But the uprising is not over yet. The Arab “spring” has now turned into a “winter”, but there will be more seasons to come…..

 

I also believe that religion is a private matter between a person and his creator. The state has no right to interfere in the relationship between man and God. The separation of church and state is mandatory. It must be respected…..

Like many youngsters, a teenage boy, Mohamed Wald Syed Ahmed spent his free time online. But he opened up a door to the world of jihadist recruiters and soon became popular among extremists by the name of Mohamed Atta Shanqiti. He eventually landed in prison, where his convictions changed. He returned to school after his release, took a bride, and thought about how he could help prevent other young men from choosing the dangerous road to extremist Jihadism…..

 

Three years after Shahbaz Bhatti’s death, though admittedly his brothers have tried hard to pursue justice, they have started getting death threats themselves, as if a hidden “third hand” were telling them, “You have received the blood money for your brother’s murder. Now hush up.”

 
Deterioration of Human Rights in Iran
Shabnam Assadollahi
Deterioration of Human Rights in Iran
Kaveh Taheri

While the international community is focused on getting nuclear deals with Iran, it is easy to ignore the fact that Iran is also one of the world's worst human rights violators. When the constitution of a country and the law of the land are based on Sharia and Islamic law, inequality between men and women, Retribution Law, execution for being enemy of God (Mohareb), death by hanging, there is little hope of anyone condemning these acts....

 

His doctrine of Jihad as he explained it to me is not about murdering innocent civilians, journalists or aid workers or just wanton murderous violence the way ISIS is making it to be. In that sense, Abu Qatada said” I am not a Jihadist.” For him, Jihad should come to mean a Muslim renaissance where the whole “Ummah” should rise up to be a powerful and advanced nation on par with other developed powerful nations of the world.  He states that “Jihad should be among other things, about political, cultural, scientific empowerment of the Muslims.” The problem with current” Jihadist” groups today is that they use “ Jihad”  in a way that made the whole religion of Islam absorbed by “Jihad” not the other way around.  This is a pivotal point in Abu Qatada’s development of his doctrine of Jihad….

No Muslim is immune to Islamophobia in the West. Even I in spite of my very public interfaith efforts have been attacked on the basis of the most absurd arguments: in one case because the Islamophobe attacking me mentioned that I held the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC and wrote that Ibn Khaldun was a terrorist militant. Another accusation was that I admired Maulana Rumi who was, according to the Islamophobe, a terrorist poet. It is the height of absurdity...

Islam preaches ‘don’t commit adultery,’ Christianity preaches the same thing, ‘be nice to people’, ‘be a giver’ and all that, are the same in the two religions. Anyone that goes outside the Quran to do some other thing is on his own. Initially, he wanted me to be a Muslim; probably I would have joined him. But, there was a period in my life, when I was very ill, though everything seemed okay, within me I knew I was not okay. That was around 1998, during the first Holy Ghost Congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God tagged Lekki 1998, with the theme: ‘Divine Visitation.’ I was actually visited by God, I went with my daughter, and actually it took us hours to get there. I then said; ‘God, you have to heal me here today, if you cannot heal me, I want to die here.’ That was what I said and since then, I have never been admitted in the hospital….

 

God says in the Quran that He guides whom He wills to Islam. As I mentioned, I’d been struggling lately because of things like Islamophobia. Instead of cherishing the fact that God called me to the religion, I’ve been focusing on superficial things that distract me from the real beauty of what it means to be Muslim. This experience showed me that I have been taking the great gift of this faith for granted……

 

It is ironic that while India and Pakistan trade bullets and kill innocents across the Line of Control in Kashmir, two of their activists are jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize for activism on child rights — an issue that affects both countries deeply. This is what they should be concentrating on……

 

One must undermine the legitimacy of AQ and IS by destroying the associated images of heroism and adventure, by returning them to their true stature, what they really amount to: not Muslim community heroes, but at best losers, like the three who gave themselves up to the police, and at worst bandits, ‘yobbos’, fascinated by Brian De Palma's Scarface. The only way is to ‘deflate’ the attractive image of jihad. Which is the opposite of what one is doing: leading a charge under the flag to the sound of the trumpet! The 1914 war commemorations must have gone to our leaders' heads!....

 

We cannot know for sure. What we do know, however, is that if we succumb to despair we will help ensure that the worst will happen. And if we grasp the hopes that exist and work to make the best use of them, there might be a better world. Not much of a choice.....

 

Muslims ritually sacrifice an animal, but the real purpose is to pledge that we will dedicate ourselves to the peaceful divine mission just as the Prophet Ismail dedicated himself. Eid-ul-Adha is a day of pledge for a dedicated life rather than a day of some ritual act. At present, the greatest need for the divine mission is to remove the misunderstandings developed about the religion of Islam that is, thinking Islam to be a religion of violence. Generally, people take the divine mission as a violent mission. The faithful must dedicate themselves to remove this misunderstanding. This is the Zibh Azeem for the present times. Prophet Abraham wanted to make a peaceful team for the divine mission. Today, Muslims must dedicate themselves to building a peaceful image of Islam…..

Our over a year long journey across the country was an eye-opener. It sprang one surprise after another and assailed many presumptions with Kali Ki Gali in Peshawar, Shivala Mandir in Mansehra, a Pujari’s words in Pindi:  “Yeh Mutthi Bhar Dahshatgard Kitna Bigaar Leingay?” to name a few......

 

Interfaith dialogue should seek ways to reinforce the sense of universal humanity between believers in the different religions. Prophet Muhammad Sallallāhu Alayhi Wa Sallam is said to have instructed the Muslim refugees who fled to Christian-ruled Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in the face of their oppression in Makkah to accept the laws and customs of the land to which they migrated, although remaining Muslims. This is supported by a Hadith narrated by Ibn Umar and recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari (Volume 4, Book 52, Number 203): 'The Prophet said, "It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler's orders) unless these orders involve disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to or obey it"'…..

The very notion of Abrahamic religions is arguably Islamic. The Quran presents Abraham as an adherent of Islam, but here “Islam” means the primordial faith that connects humanity to one God and leads in turn to Judaism, Christianity and then historical Islam as proclaimed by Muhammad. There are some who view Islam as a faith that supersedes the two earlier monotheistic religions. But I think it’s more useful to understand Islam as a religion that is self-conscious about its relationship to Judaism and Christianity and explicitly takes account of their scriptures and traditions. Almost all the prophets of the Quran will be familiar to those who know the Bible, and the Quran explicitly refers to parables, ideas and stories from the Bible……

The US did not directly train the Islamic State. That is preposterous. IS emerged out of the al-Qaeda of Iraq. It is an Iraqi group that was started by a set of Jordanian militants in 2004. They have in the past few years drawn in a large number of fighters from all over the world. I know that they crossed over from Turkey. Many of them came with rudimentary training, but with a fierce commitment to the fighting……

 

To understand how Muslims have approached (and still approach) interreligious dialogue, in addition examining scriptural sources more needs to be said about the context in which Islam first appeared.  The context of the emergence of Prophet Muhammad’s message in seventh century Arabia as evident in the Qur’an was such that it took place alongside other already well-established religious communities, most important of which were, apart from Arabian pre-Qur’anic beliefs, Judaism, Hanifiyyah (Arabian monotheism based on the faith of Abraham) and Christianity. It is important to note in this context that the very fabric and nature of the Qur’an clearly depicts many of the events and the nature of the relationship between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim Other during the revelatory period. Here it is essential to point out that the Qur’anic attitude (and, therefore, the Prophet Muhammad’s praxis) towards the religious Other was highly contextual in nature and therefore context-dependent, if not ambivalent……

What you find in IS-controlled territories is brutal violence. Everyone who does not follow a very one-sided, al Qaeda-type style of Islam is regarded as an enemy and is persecuted and killed. But IS draws its strength in Iraq primarily from Sunni Arabs who were privileged under Saddam Hussein, and who became the losers in his overthrow in 2003. Contrary to promises, the Sunnis have not been represented in government. Many of these very frustrated Sunnis have seen an instrument in IS through which they can again be heard. They want to show Baghdad that their interests must be taken into account - and so long as there are no other means for them, they'll use IS…..

 
Salman Rushdie: Inside the Mind of Jihadists
Nathan Gardels
Salman Rushdie: Inside the Mind of Jihadists
Nathan Gardels

It is very improbable that it would come from the Arab-speaking world. It is more likely to come from the diaspora where Muslims in the West or India have lived with secularism. Muslims are well integrated in India, having long known the secularism to which they adhere protects them and their faith from the dictatorship of the Hindu majority. In Europe, integration has been held up as a bad word by multiculturalists, but I don't see any necessary conflict. After all, we don't want to create countries of little apartheids. No enlightenment will come from multicultural appeasement….

 
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