Oral Statement at United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, 27th regular session 2-27 March 2015
By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
General Debate on Agenda item 3: “Protection of the existence of and prevention of violence against religious minorities”
On behalf of World Environment and Resource Council
13 March 2015
Facing the brutalities of Islamist terror, while President Obama will not go beyond calling it violent extremism, the head of Sunni Islam's oldest seat of learning, Jamia al-Azhar admitted in a counter-terrorism conference in Mecca that extremism was caused by “corrupt interpretations of Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad”, and Islamic curriculums needed to change.
This call for reform, coming from Jamia Al-Azhar, is gratifying. But a half-hearted approach to reform will not work. The problems Muslims face are very basic and cannot be solved with mere tinkering with text-books. The global Muslim community will have to introspect. One question repeatedly asked, for instance, is about the contextual verses of the holy Quran that are utilised by Jihadists to brainwash our youth. Jihadists present these contextual verses as an eternal guide for Muslims.
The truth is these verses came to guide the prophet in the strife imposed upon him in the early years of Islam. They are not supposed to guide our conduct today. But hardly any scholar would come out and say this in so many words. This is what gives the Jihadists their power. If we can't even talk about constitutive and contextual verses of Quran and the difference between their relevance for us today, then how can we face the enormous challenge posed by Jihadists.
Similar challenge is posed by the sayings of the Prophet quoted by the Jihadists to support their brutal, intolerant, xenophobic, supremacist, millenarian thesis. The so-called Islamic State, in particular, does this most adroitly. But what authenticity can one claim for a so-called saying that was collected two centuries after the demise of the prophet. Almost six hundred thousand of such purported sayings were discarded by the scholars in the early centuries of Islam. How can we allow Jihadists to disturb world peace on accounts of such fanciful legends? But we Muslims will have to come out and question the Jihadist thesis from every available forum. Only then we can face this challenge.
However, I am gratified that some moderate Muslims have begun to think seriously about countering jihadist ideology. So far we were in denial, finding it difficult to see any connection between terrorism and some interpretations of Islam that have been propagated widely in the last few decades. Even the international community has not clamped down on the teaching and export of extremist text books from West-friendly Arab countries to madrasas around the world.
It's not just the vice-chancellor of Jamia Azhar but others too that are now calling for reformation in Islam, something that was being done so far in a consistent and methodical manner only on Islamic website New Age Islam. Indeed, New Age Islam remains banned for the last two years in Pakistan for countering the Jihadist theology of violence being propagated on over 150 Jihadi publications in that country.
Thus it is gratifying that several other Muslims from different parts of the world are now coming out to demand introspection and change. Four well-known Muslim intellectuals, for instance, have appealed to all Muslim political and religious leaders to stand up and support what they term "democratic Islam." They have called for a conference in France early next year that would "define the contours of a progressive interpretation of Islam firmly grounded in the 21st century."
Tariq Ramadan, Anwar Ibrahim, Ghaleb Bencheikh and Felix Marquardt have called for a clear-eyed diagnosis of Islam's current plight and want to develop a fundamental critique of Islamic culture and religion.
The questions they ask need to be answered. For example, why have the regular calls for "an Islamic Renaissance" largely gone unanswered? Why did the "uncompromising critical analysis of the Quran and the prophetic traditions," launched at the beginning of the 20th century, not lead to a lasting Islamic path to modernity? Why are innovative reformers who are looking for a connection between modernity and Islamic norms and values often forced to stand on the edge of society, fighting a losing battle?
What the ulema, intellectuals and politicians have done so far amounts to nothing more than a cosmetic endeavour; they have been hoping and perhaps praying that the issues will go away. But radicalism is deepening and intensifying. It is attracting more and more converts as we can see from the hundreds of boys and even girls running away from well-appointed homes in the West to the battlefields in Iraq and Syria.
So clearly Muslim theologians will need to go beyond superficial statements, walk further in the direction of rationality, prepare a coherent theology of peace and moderation and propagate it among masses, if they want Islam to survive as a moderate religion, a moral standard, and a spiritual path to salvation rather than allow Islamic scriptures to degenerate into terrorist manuals.
If the ulema do not agree to walk their peaceful talk, the larger society should encourage and support those few moderate, progressive Muslims who are willing to go out on a limb, perhaps putting their heads on the chopping block in this process. This section should be able to go to the community directly, bypassing the ulema and campaign.
Some of the most important issues that need to be tackled immediately related to the concepts of Jihad and Takfir (declaring a Muslim apostate). The so-called Islamic State declares in its latest propaganda magazine called Dabiq (7thissue): Islam Is The Religion Of The Sword, Not Pacifism says: Allah has revealed Islam to be the religion of the sword, and the evidence for this is so profuse that only a zindīq (heretic) would argue otherwise." In justification, among others, it quotes profusely from Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab's theological mentor Ibn Taymiyyah who said: “THE BASIS OF THE RELIGION IS A GUIDING BOOK AND SUPPORTING SWORD.” [Majmū’a Al-Fatāwā Ibn Taymiyyah].
Then it quotes, seemingly militant Qur'anic verses from Sura Al-Anfāl: 12], .[At-Tawbah: 5], [At-Tawbah: 29], [Al-Hujurāt: 9]” [Al-Mā’idah: 54], [Al-Hadīd: 25], and their interpretations from Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr to justify its thesis.
The core beliefs of the so-called Islamic State emanate from the following statements that constitute the cornerstones of Wahhabism-Salafism:
“Even if the Muslims abstain from Shirk (polytheism) and are Muwahhid (believer in oneness of God), their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims.
------ Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291
“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam, regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard-bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State.
"Islam requires the earth — not just a portion, but the whole planet.... because the entire mankind should benefit from the ideology and welfare programme [of Islam] ... Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad'. .... The objective of the Islamic ‘jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”
----- Abul A'la Maududi in Jihad fil Islam
One of the most influential Jihadist ideologues today Mohammad Al-Maqdisi explains the Wahhabi central theory of Al-Walaa' Wa Al-Bara, maintaining and expressing hatred and enmity towards all non-Wahhabi Muslims and Others, in this way:
"Showing the disavowal (Barrah) from the polytheists (Mushrikeen) and their false deities.
"Openly declaring disbelief in them and their gods and their methodologies and their laws and their legislation of shirk (polytheism).
"Openly demonstrating the enmity and hatred towards them and their ranks and conditions of disbelief (kufr), until they return to Allah and leave all of that while having disavowal (Barrah) from it and disbelieving in it."
One would imagine that the followers of Islam who believe, and many certainly do, that Islam is a religion of spirituality, peace, coexistence and tolerance, would be up in arms against the Islamic State. But while routine denunciations from some sections do come occasionally, there is no outrage visible in the Muslim society. The world cannot help noticing that while tens of thousands of Muslims come out on streets to demonstrate the moment there is an allegation of so-called blasphemy against any one, hardly any Muslim would protest at the myriad brutalities perpetrated by Islamist terrorists.
Clearly there is something wrong, some disconnect, some deeper and more complex phenomenon at work than what can be understood from a superficial look at the issue. Instead of expressing outrage, we find thousands of Muslim young men and women running from their comfortable homes, private schools and cushy jobs to fight and join in the brutalities of the so-called Islamic State. Some 12,000 Muslim young men and women are said to have joined so far from 80 countries. Clearly they accept the IS thesis that "Islam Is The Religion Of The Sword, Not Pacifism." Clearly they accept the millenarian, end-time predictions found in the so-called sayings of the Prophet. The inescapable conclusion is that this romanticism may be connected with how Islamic education shapes the Muslim mind in the absence of a counter-narrative.
Vice Chancellor of Jamia al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb has done well to point in the direction of educational reform. While introspection, brainstorming, reformulation of thoughts on a variety of issues, involving the global Muslim community will of necessity be a long-drawn affair, educational reform should begin immediately. The text books being used at the moment are hundreds of years old, prepared in different eras and with very different purposes in mind. Saudi text books that are relatively modern and being exported to the Muslim world in large numbers have been specifically designed to create hatred for other religious communities and non-Wahhabi sects of Islam.
I had pointed this out in one of my previous oral statements in the Council too. A mere look at some quotations from Saudi text books for impressionable young minds will tell us why so many youths, particularly from Saudi Arabia and other countries where these texts are taught are leaving their homes and schools for doing what they consider Jihad in the so-called Islamic State. In a celebrated study of Saudi school text books titled “Teaching Islam," Professor Eleanor Abdella Doumato comments:
"After proclaiming that there is only one Islam for all and there is no room for other interpretations, the schoolbooks lead to the message that philosophy and logic lead to schism, and are therefore especially to be avoided."
Doumato quotes a couple of paragraphs from the text of (10b: 14) and (10b: 15).5 and comments further:
“The message is that intellectual debate and individual reasoning must be sacrificed on the altar of communal harmony and political unity. The lesson is literally a textbook illustration of what Khaled Abou El Fadl describes as the anti-intellectualism of contemporary Saudi Islam's "supremacist, puritanical orientation," which retreats to the "secure haven of the text," where it can safely dissociate itself from critical historical inquiry (El Fadl 2003). ...
“One chapter, in the tenth-grade Tawhid textbook (the unrevised edition), titled the "Call [Da’wah] of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab," describes the progenitor of Najdi Islam as the historical rectifier of deviations in the peninsula, drawing a parallel between al-Shaikh, as he is known in Saudi Arabia, and the Prophet Muhammad. The lesson explains that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (hereafter MIAW) came as a mercy from God to renew the religion of this Umma, his call for renewal fitting an established pattern: the Prophet Muhammad was sent by God to renew for mankind the creed that had been altered by deviations and innovations over time.”
But what did Mohammad ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab teach and what is being taught to our children today across the Islamic world and indeed, even in the West? One of the most important lessons in these text books is expressed through the concept of Al-Walaa' Wa Al-Bara (which essentially means showing loyalty towards Wahhabi Muslims and bearing enmity towards everybody else).
Let me again quote from this chapter of Teaching Islam;
“The hostility toward the outsider expressed through Al-Walaa' Wa Al-Bara has a history, and the recipients of Wahhabi enmity shift over time. For example, David Commins (2002) shows that the duty to bear enmity was used to rally resentment against the Ottoman Turks in the 1880s. In contemporary Saudi Tawhid schoolbooks, the objects of enmity range from Jews, non-Wahhabi Muslims to Western civilization in general. …
“The textbook used in 2002 explains that anyone who practices non-conformist thought or action among Muslims should not only be corrected but also despised. Non-Muslims are not to be befriended or tolerated; nor can they be simply ignored. They are to be hated. "It is a law of Tawhid that one should show loyalty to the Unitarian (Muwahhid, Wahhabi) Muslim and bear enmity toward his polytheist (Sufi, Non-Muslim) enemies," says the text. ...
10 "The place of Al-Walaa` Wa Al-Baraa` has great standing in Islam," the lesson says, "as the Prophet said: 'The strongest bond of belief is loving what God loves and hating what God hates,' and with these two one gains the loyalty [Wilaayya] of God" (10b: 110). The lesson elevates enmity for the sake of God above the pillars of Islam: "[T]he Prophet said: 'Whoever loves for the sake of God and hates for the sake of God and shows loyalty for the sake of God and enmity for the sake of God, he will achieve the loyalty of God by that, and unless he does so, no worshipper will ever find the taste of faith even if he is excessive in prayer or fasting — (10b: 110).
“Who are the polytheist enemies against whom the monotheist Muslim must bear enmity? To MIAW (Abdul Wahhab), polytheist enemies were other Muslims, especially the Ottoman Turks, Shi`a, Sufis, and anyone who wore amulets or practiced magic. The school text specifies new ways to become an enemy, explaining why Muslims must be alert to show hostility toward the offender. Student should recognize hypocrisy (al-Mudaahana) when they see it. If a person socializes with moral deviants but thinks himself immune to their 'deviancy, he's being hypocritical, and by not breaking off relations with them and showing them hatred he is showing disloyalty to God (10b: 111). The poof text is the story of Abraham, who broke off from those who did, not believe in the one God but instead worshipped idols."11
“In the Fiqh and Hadith texts, imitating the Kuffar (unbelievers) is presented as morally corrupting. Women who dress like foreigners, for example, invite temptation and corruption, so the fabric of Muslim women's dress must be thick enough not to show any skin and wide enough to conceal the contours of the body, and the face must be covered to protect her personality. Imitating the Kuffar is an insult to God because Muslims are supposed to love what God loves and hate what God hates. If a Muslim joins in holiday celebrations with the Kuffar or shares with them their joys and sorrows, he is showing them loyalty (10b: 118). To say Id Mubarak happy holiday) to the Kuffar is as bad as worshipping the cross; it's a worse sin against God than offering a toast with liquor; it's worse than suicide and) worse than having forbidden sex (Artikab Al-Farj Al-Haram); and many people do it without realizing what they have done (10b: 118).
“Imitating the Kuffar by using the calendrical designation "A.D." instead of the Hijra year is another problem, because A.D. evokes the date of Jesus' birth and shows an affinity with unbelievers. At Christmas time, Muslims are not to dress like the Kuffar or exchange gifts or attend a feast or display ornaments. The holidays of the Kuffar should be like any other day for Muslim. As Ibn Taimiyya said, "Agreeing with the Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book) on things that are not in our religion and that are not the customs of our ancestors is corruption. By avoiding these things, you cease supporting them." Some even say, the lesson warns, that if you perform a ritual slaughter on their day, it's as if you slaughtered a pig.
“The textbooks evoke the past as a warning for the present. A section of the chapter called "Judgment About Making Use of the Kuffar in Employment and Fighting and Things Like That" quotes Ibn Taimiyya as saying, "Knowledgeable people know that the protected people among the Jews and Christians (ahl dhimma min Yahood wa Nasara) wrote to people of their own religion giving secret information about the Muslims" (10b: 119). The principle is to not to cooperate with or trust the Kuffar:
"O you who believe! Do not take for intimate friends those other than your own people; they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still" (Quran 3:118).
“One should not employ an unbeliever if there is a Muslim who can do the job, and if they're not needed, one should never hire them because the Kuffar can never be trusted (10b: 121). Nor should a Muslim accept employment from an unbeliever, for a Muslim should never be in a position of subservience to the Kuffar, who would surely show him disrespect. Nor should he be put in a position requiring him to deny his religion.
“A Muslim should not live permanently among Kuffar because his faith will be compromised and that is why God required Muslims to migrate from a land of unbelief (Bilad al-Kufr) to a land of belief (Bilad Al-Islam). As for those who would rather work for the Kuffar and live among them, this is - the same as showing loyalty to them and agreeing with them. This is apostasy from Islam. And whether one were there out of greed or for comfort, even were he to hate their religion and protect his own, it is not allowed. Beware of the worst punishment. (10b: 121)
“The chapter warns against music, laughter, and singing. ... Proscriptions on joyous behaviours, according to the text, are meant to encourage Muslims to invest all their being in thoughts of God and not expend energy in frivolous activities. However, the significance of such proscriptions shifts to contemporary concerns about the new enemy, the cultural invasion from the West. The "worst kind of imitating the Kuffar" is becoming so preoccupied with the unimportant things the Kuffar have promoted in their own societies that Muslims neglect to remember God and to do good works, for God says: "Oh you who believe! Let not your wealth, or your children, diverts you from the remembrance of God" (Quran 63:9; 10b: 124). The lesson explains that the Kuffar (infidels) assign value to unimportant things because, absent religious faith, their lives are empty.
“What are these unimportant things? First, there are the performing arts, such as singing and playing instruments, dancing, and theatre and cinema, which are visited-by people who are lost from the truth. Then, there are the fine arts (Al-Funun Al-Jamila), such as painting, drawing, and sculpture. (Despite the prohibition on art, some schools in the [Saudi] kingdom do offer art classes.) Then there are sports, which are sometimes more important to youth than remembering God and obeying him; sports cause youth to miss prayers and ignore school and household obligations. Whether such behaviours are permitted or not, the Muslim nation today should save its energy for dealing with challenges from its enemies: "Muslims have no time to waste on insignificant activities" (10b: 124-125).
“Forbidding celebrations of birthdays, especially the birthday of the Prophet, and prohibitions against fine and performing arts are all part of the modern fabric and the historical legacy of Wahhabi culture.”It’s hostility to any human practice that would excite the imagination or bolster creativity," says (Dr. Khaled Abou) El Fadl (2003), is "perhaps the most stultifying, and even deadly, characteristic of Wahhabism." Anything that suggests a step toward creativity," he says, "constitutes a step toward Kufr [infidelity]."
Sultan Shahin, Editor, NewAgeIslam.com: firstname.lastname@example.org