23 November 2008

''Making the coastal areas lucrative for local fishermen again could encourage pirates to return to legitimate livelihoods' It is all about justice

''Beyond the immediate need to temporarily send warships to police the troubled waters, a coalition force tasked with fishery protection should be deployed. It could be done under the auspices of the United Nations, African Union, or a coalition of willing states.
This option will address a root cause of the piracy problem, rob the modern-day buccaneers of their legitimacy, and be more acceptable to the region as an enduring part of the solution.
First, this option will address the very problem that originally sparked this rise in piracy. The problem of piracy in Somalia originated about a decade ago because of disgruntled fishermen.
The headless state had no authority to patrol its tuna-rich coastal waters and foreign commercial vessels swooped in to cast their nets. This proved a slap in the face for Somalis, who saw these vessels as illegal and raking in profits at the expense of the local impoverished population. To make matters worse, there were reports that some foreign ships even dumped waste in Somali waters.''

• Katie Stuhldreher is a graduate student at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she's currently researching Somali piracy.

04 November 2008

The Many Salafisms

Yes, I know what you must be thinking: misogynist, arrogant and supremacist. This in fact is the dreary picture painted by the sociologist Riaz Hassan in his book Inside Muslim Minds of what he labels "Salafibism". Fortunately, mortal muse is never that wholly encompassing of truth. Take for example the Muhammadiyah Association. Reporter Amy McQuire who toured East Timor and Indonesia with the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre in July came into contact with Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim group in Indonesia. What did she find? That it runs hospitals and schools in urban, regional and remote Indonesia. And "it does not discriminate in providing services to all sectors of society. Muhammadiyah also has an active women’s branch called Aisyiyah, which is involved in several charitable works aimed at empowering women."

All this good from a group which if we have been told is an inherently evil form of expression colluding with sectarian fantasists of old?

From the Muhammadiyah website:
On 25th May 1957 a group of students from Madrasah Raudatil Atfal and students of the late Ustaz Abdul Rahman Harun, Ustaz Rijal Abdullah and Ustaz Amir Esa had organized an Eid Adha Hari Raya Gathering. In that gathering the students had unanimously agreed to strengthen their group and officially established a Sunnah/Salafi movement in Singapore.
I'd argue there is nothing uncommon about a humane, tolerant Salafism. Just like there are many Sufisms, there are many Salafisms. Some of them are dubious, some of them are not. The routine mutual slander (as occurs on the blogosphere) is neither here nor there. Moreover, an individual humanity supersedes prejudice.

The task of a contemporary Muslim, in my view, is also to struggle with labels and meanings. In order to achieve that, we must first emotionally distance ourselves from group-thought, and then, come to common terms.

I'd like to voice my own personal disagreements with a lot of what is established, but it'll probably cause more division. I have come to the realisation that dialogue and everything sounds good but at the end of the day we're going to disagree. Let us live together and clog the hurt. Sectarianism is one of the biggest problems facing Muslims.

It doesn't help when Irfan Yusuf blames all terrorism on the "Wahhabis". There is more to it and more to a range of a peoples than meets the eye. Terrorism, in fact, is the legacy of Sayyid Qutb who subscribed to the colossal Leninist irony that killing of innocents on whatever scale is justified in a quest for earthly utopia. This ideology lies at the heart of Al-Qaeda's error: "there is no hope". The actions of terrorists suggests that God is unable to govern with fairness and permits debauchery and killing in the service of depraved, elitist maniacs. Certainly not the God of Islam. Not the God of man. In Islam triumph is always of unrelenting faith, of good, of meekness, of patient labour and of small kindnesses.

Salafis, Sufis and Shias must stop fighting and start building.

We are mortals, of course, balancing immortal revelations. Separated by land and sea and culture and viewpoints. Yet, there is no excuse for slander.

02 November 2008

If Things Must Change...

I just read a disturbing story of a thirteen-year-old Somali girl who was raped and then -- by a form of twisted logic -- stoned to death by "Islamic militants". There is no denying that the judges were Muslims acting in the name of Islam. Once again, we must look at this news from a different angle first. Somalia has been invaded by Ethiopia at the behest of the United States. This report like all others also serves as a propaganda by Uncle Sam as it tries to incriminate the enemy. You can bet your bottom dollar that Ethiopia has been stoning teenage girls as well, but you never hear of that as it besmirchs the status quo. The establishment feels no sensitivity toward the rape victim. It is merely to garner outrage from the public.

For those who sincerely care about incidents like these (divested from politics) in Muslim countries, there is one solution. Islam has witnessed the death of the "activist scholar", those knowledgeable Muslims who championed the causes of the poor and disfranchised. Instead, a scholar now speaks what the congregation wants to hear. Muslims are now indulging in lashing out at others for their misfortunes. This has given rise to progressive groups and other groups sunk in the quagmire of tradition in response to the literalists, all of them unable to seize the spirit of classical Islam. Hence, now is a need for scholars to speak up against the thousands of cases of injustice against thirteen-year-old girls like Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. Islam can only move forward with the participation of conscientious scholars. I even believe that if all the scholars in Iraq united and condemned the sectarian violence, Iraq would be free. Islam has been let down by effective leadership.

31 August 2008

Islam Tonight (Ramadan Mubarak)

All of them lie in sleep
Except her, for whom it is Islam tonight.
Sitting so pure and demure
With the Qur’an on her palms.

All of them lie in sleep
When the stars are in the eyes to keep.
A naughty storm in the dark;
Not long, angels chase it away.

All of them lie in sleep.
She declares her faith in her heart.
Allah hears and comforts her.
Tears come to her very eyes.

All of them lie in sleep.
Sister Fatima rises and kneels.
She is now among the believers
Whom Allah guided to His path.

26 May 2008

Muslim Judeophobia: A Disease

I've always planned to address this issue, which is propagated by some Muslim speakers, namely that Jews are our enemies. This is wrong. Jews are not our enemies. There are numerous Jews who stand in solidarity with Muslims on Palestine. It is true that there are Jews who are Zionists and puritans. But it is also true that there are Muslims who are Mawdudists and puritans who support the oppression meted out to insiders and outsiders of their respective nation states, out of a disjointed sense of loyalty, blinded by tribal partisanship to right and wrong. Progressive or liberal Muslims will not find in me a friend either because I identify a similar ideological pattern in their blindness toward neoliberalism and wars waged by their countries, usually Britain and America. Both these groups respresent extreme factions within the Muslim body. While Mawdudists decry "Western evil", the proggies correct that through their own selective ideology. They are two faces of the same coin. Islam has always proposed a middle path. This path is enshrined in the Qur'an, an intelligent, discoursive reading of which reveals that Jews and Chrisitans are the People of the Book. They are to be respected. And not just them, we have an obligation as Muslims to respect the rest of humanity. And this can be achieved by an emphasis on those traditions that bind us together as a people. Love knows no context. It is true that there has been antipathy and even wars between Muslims and Jews. But there is no theological basis for an iota of contempt. The Qur'an offers theological critiques of both Christianity and Judaism to warn of making the same mistakes, and the New Testament and the Torah both do the same of those gone before them, and the Qur'an forbids oppression and discrimination. It is and always has been political. Indeed, Muslims are one body, but humanity is one family.

Once the Prophet was seated at some place in Madinah, along with his Companions. During this time a funeral procession passed by. On seeing this, the Prophet stood up. One of his Companion remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew. The Prophet replied, “Was he not a human being?”

We find that even during the Prophet Muhammad's time, Judeophobia was rife in Arab Muslim society. Like in today's world, it originated from politics. We also find that the Prophet's other wives ridiculed Safiyya bint Huyayy who was formerly Jewish. This thoroughly displeased the Prophet. Therefore, any amount of irrational fear or loathing of Jews should displease each one of us who calls himself a Muslim. On another occasion when Lady A'isha made some remark about Lady Safiyya's short stature, the Prophet replied: "You have said a thing that if it were left in the sea, it would mix with it (and make its water dirty)." And when we Muslims express prejudice, ignorance and downright hatred toward Jews on the basis of mad politics (on which we aren't heroes either - look at the despotic Arab countries which fly the flag of hatred and nationalism, and their overweight rulers), it is like we have said and done things that would make the sea the colour of our loudly professed albeit tainted humanity.


06 May 2008

I Am Sorry

If I am wrong or regret a deed
I can tell it from my heart's plea.
As I write, I am stricken
By a worthless sense of mission.
I was not sure, how could I know
The path I walked was far too low?
If I have grieved a single soul
In any silly wayward role
I come to you, full of apology.
Not in the charming verse of mythology.
But simple like a child I hold
The decency that I erstwhile sold.

19 March 2008

Second Chance

As the years pass by, there is always a part of us that wants to look backwards, to reminisce about a life we have left behind now. We travelled up to North Yorkshire this weekend to visit my parents and I had in mind to take a detour to Hull on our return: to remember old friends, revisit old streets and see how much has changed. We didn’t get to go there as it happened, but I did realise another desire of mine: to return to York mosque.

We left the Rectory half way through the morning on Monday and made good progress back past York and towards the M1. We had travelled about 30 miles and were about 10 miles short of the motorway when my wife suddenly remembered that we had forgotten our coats. She insisted on going back for them since they are all we have to protect us from the cold through the winter and my asthma medicine was with mine. Grudgingly I took the next slip road off the bypass, crossed the bridge and headed back in the opposite direction. We had travelled for forty minutes already and I was mindful of the 200 miles still to go ahead of us, but it was the only way.

Alhamdulilah for that. Though perhaps I was irritated as I counted an extra sixty miles and another hour added to our journey, I can only say Alhamdulilah. This time, setting off for home once more I gave more thought to the nagging within which asked me to revisit that old mosque of mine. I don’t know how many times over the years I have told myself that I must pop in to whisper salams, but it seems that I was never able to. Alhamdulilah; had we not forgotten our coats we would never have returned perhaps.

I am so glad that we did. We arrived there in time for dhuhr prayer and just before a lovely gentleman arrived to open up the doors and let us in. Last time I visited, the mosque committee was raising funds to build an extension for women and the growing community at large. As I skirted the small building I wondered if they had ever realised that goal, for it was a long time since my last visit. It was only after standing in the prayer hall for a couple of minutes that I realised just how tiny the original mosque had been, recalling the tight dimensions of those Friday prayers I had once sought out so keenly.

I realised that it was eight years since I last visited and yet this kind man somehow remembered me. He greeted my wife with salams, opened the prayer room for her and switched the amplifiers on without any intervention on my part (we have to specifically ask at my local mosque). His warmth and beautiful nature reminded me what I so loved about that modest little mosque as a visiting stranger almost a decade ago. Although I was travelling, I just had to do dhuhr with them and stay for a little time in that now slightly bigger mosque before our long journey onwards.

My brief return made me so happy and it was alhamdulilah-for-forgetting-our-coats all the way home. Alhamdulilah that Allah gave us a second chance. Thinking about it now, it seems a rather fitting parable for our lives.

O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.

Hadith Qudsi reported in the collections of Tirmidhi and Ahmad.