Books and Documents
Islam and Politics

The Outer Edges of Islam: Wahhabism targets Muslims, not non-Muslims; fundamentalists are offended by modernity but welcome modern technology
Amir Hussain

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has continued the work that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab began centuries earlier. They have destroyed religious sites around Mecca and Medina, serving as the role model for ISIS in its destruction of Shi‘a sites and Sunni shrines in Syria and Iraq. Watching Muslims destroy the religious and cultural heritage that other Muslims left for the world is particularly painful, and yet another facet of Muslim-on-Muslim violence……

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws Legitimise Intolerance

The country’s clerics are united in defending the existing laws. The most vociferous opponents of reform are not the Saudi-style extremists empowered during the Zia era, but Barelvis, a school of Islam that some once looked to as a moderate bulwark against extremism. Unsurprisingly, many conclude they can cry blasphemy with impunity…..

Saudi Arabia is playing politics with oil, forcing OPEC to maintain its current production levels at 30m barrels per day, to force down the price. Consequently oil prices have fallen 35% in 2014, tipping under the $70 mark for the first time since May 2010. The question is why the Saudis would risk the goodwill of other OPEC members, simultaneously emasculating the organisation and undercutting their ability to use it in the future to serve their interests……


No Secularism or Democracy without Religious Freedom
Sahin Alpay

Whatever be the reasons for the dominance of the AKP in Turkish politics today, the fact remains that the country is confronted with the most authoritarian civilian government ever. What is more worrying are the recent signs that the AKP government, faced with grave corruption allegations, is now trying to build a political alliance with the Kemalist military to fortify its power…..


Islam and the Constitution: ‘Islamic’ Constitutions Often Grant Just As Many Rights As Secular Countries: Implementation Is The Problem
Rafia Zakaria

While gender parity, political stability and democracy were found to be wanting in countries that ranked high in the Islamic Constitutions Index, it was also found that this was not so because the countries did not provide their citizens with rights in their constitutions. In fact, most of the countries were found to be granting just as many rights as secular countries, suggesting then that it is the implementation of rights, and the development of mechanisms that actually facilitate governance that may be lacking in these constitutions….

Why the Islamic State Failed in Myanmar?
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Many madrasas in Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand also function as media for the dissemination of jihadist ideology. In Myanmar, the presence of such madrasas preaching radicalised interpretations of Islam are only restricted to the northern areas of the Arakan province; and here too, the numbers are trivial. Thus, it appears that Myanmar so far lacks the necessary apparatus key to create a conducive environment for the growth and grip of radical Islam – which also explains the limited influence, the IS’s propaganda for ‘global jihad’ has had on Myanmarese Muslims......


Addressing last week’s Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) annual gathering in Lahore, former JI Ameer Munawwar Hasan said that it was beyond the system based on elections to overcome the challenges being faced by Pakistan. “The problems of the society… can only be resolved through adopting and promoting the culture of jihad and Qatal in the country. We need to wage jihad in the way of Almighty Allah along with democratic struggle to eliminate oppression and injustice from society.” Does Munawwar Hasan know the implications of his views?....

The Battle for Islam
Soumaya Ghannoushi

The Battle for Islam
Soumaya Ghannoushi

With over 1.6 billion followers, one third of them living as minorities, Islam is a major force in the world today. An active factor in international relations, its influence is far from local or confined to countries and communities classified as "Muslim." With the presence of Muslims in Western capitals and the rapid diffusion of mass-communication media, Islam has become a globalized subject, albeit one largely viewed through the prism of security and intelligence. Amidst the rise of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups, it has become increasingly perceived in Europe and the U.S. as a generator of crises and a threat to global stability and security…..


Islam would cease to suffer misrepresentations the day Muslims begin to conduct themselves in line with its dictates.” But that response did not address the issue. Thus in order to properly situate the reaction of brethren to the said essay, I caused a copy of Dr. Cole’s essay to be sent to me. After all, the very first principle in critical thinking is open-mindedness. For me, every act of writing, every product of the intellect, no matter how disagreeable it may appear, is like a spear thrown into the darkness. Ironically, it is an army that must be sent into the darkness to find it - the intellect…..

Is Apolitical Islam Possible?
Tahir Kamran

Even the spiritual domain of any religion and particularly Islam has an explicitly-stated political intent which can be gleaned from the various Tazkiras of the Sufi saints of the medieval period. The very spiritual resonance on the political at times brought them quite close to the ruling elite of the day. The eminent king from the Slave dynasty, Ghias ud Din Balban, married off her daughter to a Sufi out of political exigency. As against Sufis, Ulema asserted as and when opportunity arose, as epitome of the divine sanction to re-order human life …..


The absolutist monarchy of Saudi Arabia is the worst, most fanatical and most powerful Islamic religious fundamentalist state in the world. Decades of solid US and UK support for this despotic regime makes a mockery of Western claims to be fighting the forces of sectarianism and religious fundamentalism when it goes to war against the "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan. In fact, the US and UK only oppose these entities for cynical reasons of power….


Iran Is Shifting From Pariah to Possible Future Policeman of the Gulf
Robert Fisk

“Whatever happens with the nuclear talks, it will again be the most powerful nation in the Muslim Middle East one day. People should plan to invest in the new Iran. If the Americans and the Iranians can reach agreement, Iran could again be the policeman of the Gulf.”…..


India's 176 million Muslims represent about 15 percent of India's population. Most adhere to the moderate Barelvi form of Islam, but in recent times it's estimated that as many as 20 per cent have been lured to Wahhabi ideology. India is susceptible to the extremist snare. The Modi government must adopt a two-prong policy. One is to pre-empt and counter terrorists by profiling existing and potential militants, creating a dedicated national anti-terror workforce, integrating inputs from academic in policymaking and ensuring fair and fast judicial scrutiny. The other is to work on social sites by checking Wahhabi indoctrination, removing Muslim ghettoisation, modernising madrasa education, and supporting small-scale entrepreneurship initiated by semi-skilled illiterate Muslims along with other Indian citizens…..


The Rise of Religion in Politics
Murat Yetkin

Perhaps it sounds irrelevant to mention the Pope’s visit to the European Parliament and the Jewish State bill in Israel at a time when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been shocking the world with its violence in the name of religion. As part of that, people have been beheaded, enslaved, raped and displaced by ISIL militants, motivated by an endless hatred against not only non-Muslims but also against everyone other than believers of their radical version of Sunni Islam…..

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East
George Friedman

Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements. But in terms of geographical presence, the Islamic State has set itself apart from the rest. While al Qaeda might have longed to take control of a significant nation-state, it primarily remained a sparse, if widespread, terrorist organization. It held no significant territory permanently; it was a movement, not a place. But the Islamic State, as its name suggests, is different. …..


Sharia and English law: a Secularist Success

They are still concerned by the burgeoning of "Sharia councils" to which Muslims, in England and many other Western countries, turn for arbitration and advice in settling commercial disputes, family and marital matters, and inheritance. These bodies have no powers of coercion; in theory at least, they can only function by the free consent of all the interested parties but, secularists worry that vulnerable individuals who live "deep inside" an introspective Muslim community will come under strong pressure to abide by rulings of Sharia councils rather than regular courts……

It is easy to forget that political readings of Islam have not always sought to galvanise religious traditions from a perspective serving the interests of capital. Indeed, during the late nineteenth century and for the best part of the twentieth century a proliferation of Muslim intellectuals, political activists and movements were assiduously engaged with the burgeoning ideas of socialism. From the Tartar-led Waisi movement in Russia in the first decades of the twentieth century to the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) formed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1967—political articulations of Islam acknowledged the significance of class struggle in the lives of ordinary Muslims……

Sufis and the Muslim Brotherhood might share common ground in regard to the principle of absolute obedience to the commander; the Muslim Brotherhood strictly obeys the group’s general guide, and Sufis follow the command of the sheikh of the Sufi order. In this context, Ahmed Ban, a researcher in Islamic movements, told Al-Monitor, “There is a disparity in views between Sufis as to the ideas on obedience. While some believe that the sheikh of the order should be fully obeyed, others believe that their relationship with him is more spiritual, aiming at enhancing and improving their behaviours.”….


The fact of the matter is that Muslims have always spoken out against groups like ISIS. Yet it is worth noting that after these extremist groups act, Muslims across the globe (and in particular the Western world) are left stranded in the centre of an imperial dichotomy which labels them according to “fundamentalist” and “moderate” Muslims. Should Muslims really be compelled to apologise for and defend their faith day in and day out? The rise of ISIS in the Middle East and the spread of extremism around the world has unusually led even more liberal figures to condemn Islam as violent and intolerant…..

Asia's Long Islamic History Offers Strategy for Fighting Intolerance Today
Nirupama Rao

The largest Muslim communities in the world live in Indonesia and India and these communities are known for their syncretic traditions, the manner in which they have assimilated local tradition and cultural influences. The words of India’s nationalist leader, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, spoken in 1940, about Islam in India, are particularly revealing and meaningful: "I am a Muslim and proud of this fact. Islam’s splendid traditions of thirteen hundred years are my inheritance… In addition, I am proud of being an Indian; I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality… Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism….

What Should Bangladesh Do With Jamaat?
Taj Hashmi

…there is no reason to believe that the Jamaat or its sister-organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is just an Islamic party or like the Christian Democrats in Europe. Maududi and Jamaat have profoundly influenced Islamist politics and its derivative, Islamist terrorism, throughout the world. As Maududi's writings influenced Sayyid Qutb and Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood, and Ayatollah Khomeini, so did they influence Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama bin Laden. Before assuming the office of the President of Egypt, Morsi stated he would “make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizyah”….


Is ‘Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine’ Trying To Make A Comeback?
Ramzy Baroud

There is more than one context through which this issue can be discussed, but most urgent among them is PFLP’s own identity, incessant decline in political relevance and the unavoidable intellectual conflict, which has dogged the group since its formation by Marxist Arab nationalist Christian leader Dr. George Habash in 1967. What was an expected soul-searching of one of Palestine’s most progressive political movements starting in the 1960s throughout the 80s became a political crisis necessitated by the decline of its strongest supporters, the Soviet Union and the East European bloc, and the signing of the Oslo accords a few years later....


Tunisia Stands at Political Crossroads in Its Revolutionary Transition
H.A. Hellyer

Tunisia is where it all began. Of course, there were movements elsewhere in the Arab world that had been agitating for change for years but it was Tunisia’s revolutionary uprising in late 2010 and early 2011 that served as the spark which later led to a fire. While many Arab revolutionaries have been, indeed, burned through that process, with hitherto rather disastrous effects, Tunisia has not faltered – yet. There have been many external and internal factors that have ensured that Tunisia’s revolution has not been undone or overcome…..


Unrest and isolated attacks are nothing new in Xinjiang, a sparsely-populated desert province in the far west of China, which has traditionally been inhabited by Uighurs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and other ethnic Muslim groups. But since the severe unrest of 2009, an escalation of the violence has been observed in the oasis towns on the edge of the Taklamakan desert. As well as the larger-scale attacks, police officers, civil servants and Han farmers are being murdered almost every week. At the same time, repression is increasing, and young Uighurs are regularly given death sentences and executed. The authorities attribute the violence to ‘terrorists’…..

How Tunisia Will Succeed
Rachid Ghannouchi

How Tunisia Will Succeed
Rachid Ghannouchi

Nearly four years have passed since a man named Mohamed Bouazizi so despaired of the system that he set himself on fire in protest. With every decision we make, politicians in Tunisia must never forget what he died for. We need to protect freedom and dignity, and provide hope and opportunity. This was the dream of the Tunisian Awakening, and it is how Tunisia will succeed today.....

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