muslim citizens, not citizen muslims

I have long argued that there is a difference in attitudes between muslims in the UK/Europe and those in America. The main difference is that in the former, they are former subjects of a colonial empire, and therefore there is a deep wall of racism, resentment, and distrust that cuts both ways. The net effect is to put a barrier to true integration as a citizen with a sense of a genuine stake in the societal identity. This barrier can ccertainly be overcome (spectacularly, in fact - for example, look at Zedan). But that takes an effort of will, as well as education, the latter being something that muslims in UK and Europe have socioeconomic copnstraints upon their access that is analogous to the same as the Black ppulation does here in the United States.

Muslims in America, in contrast, attained entry via the usual (and terribly convoluted) immigration process. Their children grew up without the societal baggage of colonialism upon its victims or perpetrators. As a rule, muslim immigrants tended to be professionals or highly skilled; part of the gauntlet that one must overcome to gain entry and visas. Mulsims are not a labor class in the US, they are mostly upper middle class and highly educated.

So in a very deep sense, the differences between muslims here and across the pond are class-based, and carry a historical resonance. Tariq Ramadan has managed to overcome thse obstacles and still articulates a compelling case for muslims in Europe to embrace identity and take full part in their society; the more muslims follow his call, the easier it will be to break down those obstacles. It is exactly analogous to how the Jews in the US overcame institutionlaized racism and hatred.

There is no reason that muslims in Europe can't be full citizens of their nations.

There have been a number of good articles in the media on these issues recently. Via Matoko and Thabet and other sources:

The Economist has a very in-depth article on the topic of assimilation, which goes into more detail about the barriers to identity in Europe relative to the US.

The Guardian analyzes the results of the Pew Global Attitudes Project and finds that attitudes of mulsims and westerners towards each other are quite variable - and surprising.

The New York Times shows how the post-colonial attitudes in Europe still dominate interactions with the muslim community - for example, by infantilizing their belief system.

The New York Times Magazine has an article on outreach to the muslim community in London to enlist their aid in combating terror attacks.

'Aqoul points us to a wire story that shows how European muslims aren't "silent" about terror - they just want to live their lives.

and finally, The Prospect magazine interviews Tariq Ramadan.

As I have argued earlier - for example, with respect to the Dubai Ports World deal - muslims may be a problem, but they are also an essential part of the solution. True success in fighting off extremism requires recognition of what muslim communities have to offer, and enabling them to contribute to society as equal members.

I had a conversation with Jimmy

Carter, that is. about Dubai Ports World, demagogy by Democrats, and (by implication) Islamophobia. Check it out.

President Carter does not get enough credit for being the first to tie human rights to foreign policy. Sometimes, it seems like he was also the last.


The Miami Seven

Why haven't I commented on the alleged home-grown terror plot by American muslims in cahoots with Al-Qaeda to destroy the Sears Tower?

Well, they weren't muslim, they weren't in cahoots with Al-Qaeda, and they weren't really interested in destroying the Sears Tower, they were just punks in a gang who were trying to scam for some cool swag.

Read the indictment. The Al-Qaeda connection was actually an FBI agent - so any prosecution attempt is already tainted by entrapment. And notice what's missing from the list of requested materials with which to bomb the Sears Tower? (hint: not much of a bomb threat without the bomb...)


a case study in agenda-driving

Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal is not an Islamist. In fact he is one of the most modernist members of the Saudi royal family. He has been known for spectacular philanthropy, including donations of $40 million to Harvard and Georgetown, as well as massive investments in American corporate icons like Citigroup, News Corporation Ltd (of Rupert Murdoch and FOX News fame), and Apple. He also has a record of advocating social and political reform in Saudi society, as summarized by his Wikipedia entry:

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is not part of the ruling executive within the House of Saud, and has generally kept out of politics, concentrating on his business interests. However, he has recently started to make overt political statements in his press releases and interviews. His views can be seen as critical of Saudi traditionalism, proposing reforms to elections, women's rights and the economy. He has also openly criticized operation of the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco. He is vocal about women's rights and hired the first female airline pilot in Saudi Arabia, Hanadi Hindi.

He has also taken a notable pro-American stance, backed up by his $10 million financing of American study programmes at the American University in Cairo.

The bottom line on al-Walid is that he is exactly what America needs: an ally with enough credibility back home in Saudi Arabia to have a genuine influence on changing the society there. He is a liberalizing figure.

However, a recurring theme amongst Islamophobes is the utter inability to recognize reformers within the Arab world as the allies they are in the war on terror. Of these, MEMRI is the worst offender, selectively cherry-picking information from the vast myriad streams of Arab media to support a particular world-view, that Arab society is a monolithic anti-Semitic mass of hatred, when in fact any serious observer will report that Arab media is in many ways more committed to showcasing opposing viewpoints than our own here in the United States. As such the Arab media is a massive thorn in the side of the tyrannical regimes of the middle east - so much so that you can be arrested in Saudi Arabia for even phoning into a talk show.

So what happens when an ally of the United States such as Prince al-Walid decides to invest in a new Arab media station, Al-Rislah? A station that the Christian Science Monitor describes as "media-savvy, modern, and moderate" :

According to Al Risala's executives, that media can be both secular shows that undermine family values and religious programs that foment extremism.

"Islam has been changed throughout time," says Al Risala's general manager, Sheikh Tarek Swidan. "If we go back to the roots then we see Islam being very peaceful, very open. Respect of all humans, respect of all religions, respect of all races - that is the original message of Islam."

"We are directing the channel to be in clash with ... terrorist ideas," adds Mr. Swidan. "We are going head to head."
"When we speak of Islamic revival, we always focus on political organized groups aiming at gaining power," says Mr. Haenni. But just as important a phenomenon, he says, are "private religious entrepreneurs."

These entrepreneurs target the upper middle class, and focus on personal enlightenment rather than political engagement. They're socially conservative and opposed to what they see as the decadence of much of Western culture. But they want to benefit from Western science, education, and progress, and they condemn violence and extremism.

And, says Haenni, they use "fully all the means of mass culture ... chats on the Net, chat shows on TV, Islamic rap in the West. Mass culture is not the enemy anymore."

"It's a more worldly view of Islam," says sociologist Madiha al Safty. "They are trying to reconcile modernity with Islam."

Well, of course such a venture must be characterized as - what else? "Hate TV"

...Al-Resalah's excessive anti-Western content is somewhat astonishing. It is no different from any other hate-filled Saudi TV channel. Take, for example, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kubeisi, who appeared on Al-Resalah on March 15 and said: "When there is no hope for peace, there is no alternative but to resort to the gun. ... The West's conflict with Islam and the Muslims is eternal, a preordained destiny that cannot be avoided until judgment day."

It would seem that MEMRI would prefer that Al Risalah go head to head with the Islamists by ... not going head to head. The concept of debate is lost upon them. But the truth is that the best way to utterly delegitimize the Islamist ideology is to put it on display next to a rationalist and liberal viewpoint. I wish that MEMRI had as much confidence as I that Enlightenment values are superior to those of the dark ages.

There is no better resource for Arab media analysis than Marc Lynch, aka Abu Aardvark. The Arab media are our allies and are central to transformative societal change in the Middle East. MEMRI and their ilk are obstacles to victory in the War on Terror for they would have us abandon the allies we so desperately need.

(props to Praktike for the CSM link).


Zaid Shakir does not represent me

Zaid Shakir is a self-serving fool.

He said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, "not by violent means, but by persuasion."

"Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country," he said. "I think it would help people, and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a Muslim. Because Islam helped me as a person, and it’s helped a lot of people in my community."

This is a ludicrous and frankly stupid thing to say. America is already the greatest Islamic nation in the world. Muslims of all sects within Islam can pracctice their faith freeely here, build masajid, pray. There is no nation on earth that officially calls itself "Islamic" that accords all believers the same freedom of faith. None.

UPDATE: Eteraz has more.

UPDATE 2. Via Ezra, Shadi Hamid comes along and now says that it is incumbent upon American muslims to repuduiate Shakir's remarks. That's equally insulting. Can American muslims for once have a dialog about faith and poliltics without pseudo-fatwas about what a "true muslim" feels or what is "incumbent" ? Ezra points out that Shakir's remarks would be unexceptional in a Christian framework, whch is certainly why Hamid is wrong to insist that they be the subject of a "loyalty test", no matter how aggravating the remarks were. Any non-muslim pointing to Shakir's remarks as proof of impending dhimmitude is just giving vent to their inner jafi. However, American muslims have every right to be indignant and outraged - if they so choose, Ms. Hamdi! - by yet another attempt by someone to import religious sensibilities from abroad, and designate themselves as our mouthpiece.

We muslims in America will choose our own leaders. Both Shakir and Hamdi would do well to reflect on that.

I also note that I do consider myself a traditionalist muslim, not a "progressive" one. I am just put off by attempts to assert what I as an "honest muslim" should believe.

(note: some interesting discussion on my cross-post at Dean's World).


Muharib spill muslim blood in Baghdad masjid

If there be a genuine clash of civilizations in this world, then it rages only between the civilized folk of the world and the barbarians. Case in point:

A suicide bomber struck a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers in Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 20, police said, as violence persisted in the capital despite a massive security operation aimed at restoring order.

Police Lieutenant Thaer Mahmoud said the attacker blew himself up at the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad.

Mahmoud said the bomber was wearing an explosive belt, but Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher at the mosque and one of the country's leading politicians, however, said the explosives were inside a worshipper's shoes.

He said guards first arrested a suspected attacker after discovering explosives as they were searching shoes left outside the mosque. The bomber blew himself up when confronted by the guards as they began searching worshippers with shoes beside them inside the mosque, al-Sagheer said.
It was the second time the mosque has been hit in just over two months. The Buratha mosque also was attacked during Friday prayers on April 7, when four suicide bombers, including a woman, set off their explosives, killing at least 85 worshippers as they left the mosque after the main weekly religious service.

The U.S. military blamed that attack on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader who was killed last week in a U.S. airstrike. The terror group issued a statement Tuesday vowing to avenge Zarqawi's death and threatening horrific attacks "in the coming days."

It is as if they desire to "kill all of mankind" (5:32-33).

(related: hirabah, the muharib, and hujjat)


Nomad Fatwas, Edition 1

The Nomad Fatwas is an alliance of free-thinking blogs and a carnival simultaneously. Every two weeks a coterie of ten blogs will circulate one older post each on a theme chosen by one of the Nomad Fatwas members. You can read more about the genesis and history of The Nomad Fatwas here.

This period’s theme was “Life.”

City of Brass on Maximizing Human Potential A short meditation on how to achieve human excellence.

Avari on Dig Six Feet Down To Paradise A short meditation on religion’s role and death.

Chapati Mystery on First Day Of Summer Being canal side in Lahore. Life affirmance in muddy water!

Feministe on Feminists Finding Love How to love men in an oppressive system.

Ambivablog on Significant (?) Coincidence Whether those moments are signs or mere coincidences.

Aqoul on Saudi Arabia, Lesbianism, Other Coping Mechanisms How women in Saudi separate personal development from their social situation.

Pickled Politics on Outsourcing the Oldies Back Home What to do with the aged immigrants?

Digitally Arranged on God and Poverty The inter-relationship between suffering and religiosity.

Sig Carl Alfred on Tragedy Of the Lost How aimlessness impacts the choices we make in our politics.

Towards God Is Our Journey on Prattle From The Party III An analysis of the so called “Party of Freedom” seeking the Islamic Caliphate.

Unwilling Self-Negation on I am a Dark Elf. Learning about Islam & Muhammad from a pointy eared elf.


progressive faith blog conference

On July 14-16th, the first Progressive Faith Blog Conference will be held in Montclair, New Jersey. It's an interesting and long-overdue idea - a discussion of the intersection of faith and progressive politics. I personally won't be able to attend but I encourage anyone who is in the area to try and stop by - it should be interesting.


Taming bin Laden

Z's dead, baby. But Osama bin Laden (OBL) remains alive.

Nowadays, we don't hear from OBL much - but evidence overwhelmingly suggests he is still alive. Alive, OBL still poses an immense threat to the security of the United States. The threat is not neccessarily from another personally-orchestrated massive attack upon US soil, but rather the rallying effect that OBL has upon rank and file jihadis worldwide. It is unlikely in fact that OBL has any direct operational control over Al Qaeda - the latter organization now more of a "version 3.0" distributed entity rather than a coherent hierarchical chain of command.

OBL's primary influence comes from his fatwa (pronouncements). Traditionally, a fatwa has simply been a ruling on a religious matter - an interpretation of fiqh. A believer who has a question on religious interpretation or action would go to the ulema (learned scholars or local religious authorities) and present their case; the ulema would render an opinion after consultation with the Qur'an and those hadith which their School considered valid.

In the time of the Prophet SAW of course there were no schools of thought, only Islam - hence any pronouncement by the Prophet was a fatwa by definition. Likewise, the various Caliphs and Sultans and Mughals and whatnot also issued fatwa that applied to their subjects, because their authority was religious as well as political. In modern times, with the exception of Iran, no Islamic government claims religious authority and hence they do not issue fatwas (though certainly they compel their citizens through other means).

So how then can OBL claim such authority? Into the vacuum left by secular (tyrannical, to be sure) governments, stepped any charlatan with the desire to reshape Islam. Syed Qutb was that charlatan, and Bill Allison of now-defunct Ideofact blog did truly yeoman's work in deconstructing Qutb's writings. OBL simply took Qutb's ideas further, and has adopted a kind of "caliph in exile" mantle. Dan Darling has termed this dynamic "Magneto appeal".

The bottom line is that OBL has no authority to issue fatwa other than that granted to him by muslims themselves. To combat him, therefore, requires a systematic de-legitimization of OBL as an authority. I undertook one such de-legitimization a few years ago.