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The War Within Islam (26 Jan 2013 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Towards A Global Network of Liberal Muslims: The Petrodollar-Funded Tidal Wave Of Wahhabism And Salafism Is Transforming Islam And Making Muslims Close-Minded And Fanatical



By Abdelwahab Meddeb

January 25, 2013

In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, as in Chittagong, the country's second largest city, following meetings with writers, poets and academics I understand that it is necessary to create a network of liberal Muslim artists and intellectuals to protect our countries against the tidal wave of Wahhabism and Salafism. The latter is transforming Islam and leading its people toward close-mindedness and fanaticism.

It is amazing to discover how similar the problems are from Morocco to South Asia. The whole horizontal stretch of civilisation running above the Tropics to which we belong is being contaminated. It teeters under the onslaught of a devastating standardisation.

This situation has nothing to do with chance; it is the outcome of a carefully articulated policy that has shown its consistency, its rigour, its impetus. It has produced effects that transform reality, ever since the first oil crisis in 1974, which flooded Saudi Arabia with petro-dollars, a part of which has been used methodically to the propagation of Wahhabi doctrine across the world.

From that moment, Islam started changing from Indonesia to the Maghreb. In terms of cult practices, it is currently undergoing standardisation and universalisation that bears the hallmark of the simplified Wahhabi doctrine, rejecting theological complexity to favour the constancy of religious practices.

To counter these perils, if it is not already too late, one must focus on the four points that have been the favourite targets of Wahhabism:

1. Vernacular Islam revolves around the institution of saints, a mode of religious practices which activates the mechanism of what the ancient Greeks called tragedy, involving a process of catharsis (the purgation of passions) that enables the individual or the community to release the excess of tensions they are submitted to.

2. This brand of Islam integrates pre-Islamic features that go far back in time; with vim and vigour, it recycles ancient and antique elements that in Bangladesh, where I am writing from, are Indian. It is connected to the Hindu and Buddhist heritages, and proclaims solidarity between the Aalim and the Pundit, the Sufi and the yogi. In the same way, in Tunisia, this substratum is of Mediterranean essence, fusing and interlocking ancestral elements of Berber, Jewish, Latin and sub-Saharan African heritages that are framed by Islamic belief.

3. The second point has to do with the doctrinal and juridical approaches that set the norm in the way it should be adapted and articulated to positive law, to common law. The Wahhabi tidal wave intends to suppress the Hanafi memory in Bangladesh and the Maliki memory in Maghreb. Despite their operational shortcomings, these memories are the repositories of complexities, of exchanges of ideas that Wahhabi simplification cannot bear because it focuses all its energies on orthopraxy to the detriment of questioning.

4. My third point is about the necessary return to the theological and Sufi heritage that implies speculation and questioning. To get closer to it, one must transcend the four Sunni rites as well as the Sunni/Shia divide. It is also necessary to break free from the constraints of "ijm," the consensus that froze the whole set of beliefs, and restore "ikhtilaf," the disagreement between Ulema. This last produces a polyphony that opens wide the doors of "Ijtihad," the interpretation effort that brings about debate and promotes the diversity of viewpoints, making relative the access to truth. "Ikhtilaf" is the key word that resonates in the legal treatise of the philosopher and qadi Ibn Rushd (Averroes), the title of which is programmatic, Bidâyat al-Mujtahid wa nihâyat al-Muqtaçid, which could be translated as: "Here starts he who has striven towards interpretation, there stops he who has renounced to do so."

At this point, it is urgent to widen one's references and draw from the philosophical and poetical references that have accumulated over the centuries in the major languages of Islam, mostly in Arabic and Persian. In the most notable passages of these texts, one finds the beginnings, the foreshadowing, the harbingers of the lessons of Enlightenment that answer in an efficient fashion the problems that are ours today. For instance, one can find a way to tackle the question of The Other or of the relation of Self to The Other.

Here, in Bangladesh, there is a problem in the relation between the Muslims and their others, the Buddhists. Recent news remind us of the invasion of Buddhist sites that burned down temples and destroyed statues of Buddha or decapitated them. It happened on September, 29 last year in Ramu and the villages near Cox's Bazaar, by the Bay of Bengal. Eleven wooden temples were burnt down, including a three centuries-old one. The violence then spread to Patya, closer to Chittagong, where Buddhist presence is denser. It was then the turn of Ukhia, Teknaf in the south-east of the country, not far from the Burmese border.

This attack on cross-community harmony has profoundly hurt the feelings of liberal Muslims here. This denial of Buddhist otherness prompted Kaiser Haq, one of the eminent poets whom I met in Dhaka, to write a protest poem restoring the glory of the Buddha. During a public reading, I alluded to the many Buddhist references that are to be found in the Islamic tradition, in al-Biruni, Ibn Hazm, Shahrastani, Ibn Nadim, Massudi. All these 10th or 11th century authors are much more open to otherness, more curious of The Other, better equipped to listen to diversity, more relevant in their understanding of the stranger's beliefs, of the singularity of their rites and their representations than our contemporaries, the Wahhabis and Salafis that mean to impose their fanatic and exclusive vision. After such reminder, Kaiser Haq's poem became completely obvious and reinforced the convictions of the audience in the diversity of their opinions.

5. My fourth point is the necessary linking of our rhetoric with modern and postmodern thought as expressed since the 18th century, by Rousseau and Kant, Karl Popper and Jacques Derrida, John Stuart Mill and many others, a thought that advocates openness and liberty, that uses the weapon of the deconstruction of the heritage, the latter needing constant reassessment. It is the integration of such thought that restores complexity, redirects us towards questioning and guards us from simplistic answers. Such are the conditions that point the way to infinite quest.

In honouring these four points (loathed by the Salafis), we will give ourselves the means to build an alternative rhetoric that will counter the Wahhabi rhetoric, refute it and reject its project. It is a counter discourse, in the words of Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed, a colleague from Bangladesh with whom I took part in a public debate in an amphitheatre packed with an attentive audience made up of liberal people as well as of middle of the road Islamists and some Salafis. The discussion that followed our exchanges was constructive and candid.

The ground for the alternative way in which the product of our exchanges could prosper has been prepared, and it could be made much easier by the creation of a network linking liberal Muslims from Indonesia to Maghreb.

Abdelwahab Meddeb is an award-winning writer and poet and a leading French intellectual.

Source: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=266498

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/abdelwahab-meddeb/towards-a-global-network-of-liberal-muslims--the-petrodollar-funded-tidal-wave-of-wahhabism-and-salafism-is-transforming-islam-and-making-muslims-close-minded-and-fanatical/d/10151




  • See, I do not want to be partial to anyone, neither Saudi Arabia nor Australians. We have bad reports from Australia when Indians are beaten often, and we have bad reports from Saudi Arabia. Where doesn't such bad incidents occur. So let us not do analysis on that basis alone. 

    The Saudis who take possession of passports is one problem zone for expats. But those expats who have subservient mind, do not mind that. For them, it is OK that Saudis have the passport so that the passport remains safe, and the responsibility of safe keeping it is transferred to Saudis thus saving themselves (the expats) from the task of safekeeping it. 

    The underlying mentality is that, let Saudis be happy with the passport, because in any case the expat have no intention at the first place to leave Saudi Arabia and be denied of his share of the 'Heaven on the Earth'.

    It never occurs to these expats that they are subservient to Saudis because they have compromised their dignity. They salute Saudis, because Saudi pays. Well, what shall we take them for? 

    Besides this, Saudis are very much like Indian villagers, specially those who have good enough kheti/ farm land but minus the training of interacting with all kinds of people. They just know that there are four kinds of people. One is richer Saudi, the other is poor Saudi, the third is superior Goras (White- Europeans - Americans) and the fourth is inferior/miskeen Kalas (Black- South Asians). 

    They are in some aspect better than Indian shahriees (city dwellers) as they obey traffic rules. (With Saudi, I am considering their cousins, UAE etc walas as well; while some may be rash and some much better, but in all they are more disciplined than Indians on wheels).

    The reason why sometime we get to see the injustice done by Saudis is because these subservient kinds let them do injustice. But then, what is the way out? And do they really want a way out when all that they seek is the way in?

    They basically sell themselves to Saudis/money, to get exploited, then not feel it, rather see the benefit in getting whatever way Saudis treat them.

    Honestly, they do not find Saudis unjust, because they (expats) are unjust to themselves and in fact have misplaced sense of what is just and what is unjust. 

    After all, taking custody of someones passport is not legal even there, yet both the victim and perpetrator are party to the crime. While some satisfy their lust to feel superior, others get paid to keep them satisfied.

    By sadaf - 1/31/2013 4:14:58 AM

  • I lived and worked as a doctor in Saudi Arabia for more than 10 years and now I am working in Australia.  After coming here, I can clearly see the lack of standards in every wake of life in Saudi.  In Australia, there is standards for everything, medical standards, traffic standards, standards in house building, town planning, irrigation, drainage.  Everything have been developed with lots of standards and perfections.  Agreed, Saudi has got lots of money, but they are definitely not spending it correctly. In fact during my tenure as doctor their, one of our basic, though occult ideology was to keep the Saudi happy by giving him whatever he wanted. It was basically a way of protecting the monarchy at the basic level.  If you look into other things, people drive without any standards there and lots of lots of accidents happen every year.  In the place where I stayed if it rained heavily for one day, then the whole town would be flooded and needed lots of machinery to remove the extra waters.  Everything looks very modern there, but if you look deeper, there is no standard at all.  Its like beggars living in big palaces. Apart from all that, the people are very very racist and jealous. Being a non Saudi is as good as being an animal.  Humans kill animals for fun and for luxury.  Saudis torture non Saudi's for fun and luxury. This is the real truth.
    By Irshad Ahmed - 1/30/2013 7:02:08 AM

  • Arshad Bhai: Wa Alaikum Assalam, you are most welcome to visit Saudi Arabia to get first hand experience. I am sorry I can't help you in this regard.
    By Raihan Nezami - 1/29/2013 2:15:48 AM

  • Salik Lucknowi of Kolkata was a poet and journalist. In a conversation with me he had said,"Iqbal had described a true Muslim in his couplet:
    Aa tujhko batata hun taqdeer-e-umam kya hai,
    Shamsher o sana awwal, taus o rubab aakhir"
    By this he meant that a Muslim lifestyle will be one of hard labour and struggle towards developing his own life and his own society. Luxuries have a secondary place in his life. But the Muslims of today, particularly of Arabi have reversed the couplet like:
    Taus o rubab awwal shamsher o sana aakhir.

    The Saud family consolidated the Arab Kingdom around I think 1930. Around 1948, oil was discovered in the kingdom. And it is a sheer coincidence or God's scheme of things, that around the same time Israel was created in the heart of the Arab world which became an ulcer to the body of the Muslim world. But as a Jewish nation emerged as a nuclear nation adn the most powerful countries in the region, the Arab world remained trapped in the web of backwardness,educationally and scientifically though they had money unlike the Israel. With the creation of Israel, God had endowed them with oil so that they could prepared themselves with all the material and intellectual power otherwise what was the coincidence of the discovery of oil with the creation of Israel. But the Arabs could not read the writ of God and spent the money in frivolous activities. India and Pakistan got independence in the same year but they too became nuclear powers despite their financial constraints.The monarchs and dictators did not allow any other intellectual or leader to ensure their reign which affected these nations in the long run. If you analyse the situation dispassionately, you will have no disagreement on this count. Otherwise I am sorry if I am wrong.

    By Arshad - 1/28/2013 11:02:07 PM

  • Raihan Sb, Assalam o alaikum,
     I am curious. Please arrange a visa for me.
    By Arshad - 1/28/2013 10:45:06 PM

  • Mr. Arshad: It is a wrong generalised estimation, "The saudis couldnot do anything positive in their own country with the money they got from oil". If you wish to see the scientific development, visit Riyadh and Jeddah, for general developments in the field of multi-education, multi-trasportation, multi-urbanization, visit Saudi Arabia.
    By Raihan Nezami - 1/28/2013 10:29:24 PM

  • The saudis couldnot do anything positive in their own country with the money they got from oil. They could not transform their country into a scientifically developed one though they had all the resources. Instead they indulged in the corruptive luxuries of life. They are spending money only in a matter of secondary importance, to spread their ideology of Islam, Wahabism which is bane for the peaceful society.
    By Arshad - 1/28/2013 9:36:29 PM

  • I wonder if one can objectively connect a localized riot against the Budhists instigated as I understand by some Rohingyas who fled from Budhist dominated Burma and took shelter in Bangladesh can really be connected to petro-dollars. I think this was politically motivated as most riots are rather than religiously motivated . The effect of wahabi Islam can be seen in the extended coverage of Islamic TV channels and mushrooming of madrassas preaching traditional religious sciences, Arabization of dress and vocabulary, popularization of TVangelists, anti-Western feelings and emergence of Islamist politics for example.

    There is also difficulty in defining 'liberal Islam.' Every small group of Muslims will then be free to appropriate its worldview in Islam and the social, moral and ethical tenets of Islam that form the essence of its functional message and is, to a large extent appropriated by the 'others' will be obscured - as is presently the case. From Morocco to Jakarta, the rich are becoming richer, amassing of wealth and dubious means of earning are normative, the maid servants, young graduates and factory workers are paid the bare minimum, there is hardly any state subsidy for the poor, public well-fare and health-care services are wanting, domestic violence against women are rampant, corruption is pervasive - to cite some commonplace examples of day to day breach of the functional aspects of Islamic message. Is a highly porous liberal model of Islam going to correct or assuage these and many other societal evils that are contrary to the Islamic message? 

    It is undoubtedly a very thought provoking article, as there is a pressing need to contain theological overloading  and regimentation in Muslim societies - the fallout of wahabi Islam as as the article advocates - but how the highly diverse global Muslim community will achieve this remains a very big question.   

    By muhammad yunus - 1/27/2013 8:28:21 AM

  • Bahut achcha article hai, turant posting band ho gayi kya?
    By chalis chor - 1/27/2013 1:49:23 AM

  • Really a good work which must be read and thought upon the message given by it.
    By Raihan Nezami - 1/26/2013 12:27:53 PM

  • One of the best articles on Liberal Islam that I have seen. It must be widely read.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/26/2013 12:13:50 PM

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