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Taseer’s assassin is a Barelvi Muslim belonging to the Dawat-e-Islami, and 500 clerics of this faith supported his action. Significantly most of these mullahs are part of the Sunni Tehreek and are supposedly anti-Taliban moderates. Indeed, one of their leaders, Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi, was blown up by a Taliban suicide bomber in June 2009 after he spoke out against suicide bombings. But now these “moderates” have joined hands with their attackers. Jointly they rule Pakistan’s streets today, while a cowardly and morally bankrupt government cringes and caves in to their every demand. Those who claim that Pakistan’s silent majority is fundamentally secular and tolerant may be clutching at straws. -- Pervez Hoodbhoy

LUBP: Welcome to LUBP, Tarek. Your thoughts about the state of affairs in Pakistan as the country enters 2011?

Tarek Fatah: Well, it is an awful start to the year. The assassination of Governor Salman Taseer is sad and frightening, but it is not surprising. Salman Taseer was brave individual who I followed on Twitter and was amazed at his courage. Unlike too many public figures in Pakistan, he stood out as an unapologetic liberal and secular Muslim. For that reason alone, he had to be liquidated. The smirk on his killers face tells the entire story. Having said that, those who live by the sword, die by the sword, and I am not referring to individuals, but nations. Pakistan was born in an orgy of mass murder inspired by religious and national hatred, and will go down in its own blood. Salman Taseer is just one in a long list of leaders and political workers killed by the dark forces of Islamism and anti-India and anti-Hindu rhetoric. Can we forget the massacre of the ruling family of Kalat in 1948 or the murder of Akbar Bugti or the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto? How about the judicial murder of ZA Bhutto or the death by torture of Hassan Nasir? I can go on and on, but a nation and a people who have no regret in carrying out a genocide of its own citizens in 1971, should be prepared to count more Salman Taseers down the road. The only way to treat this cancer is to join the rest of the civilized world, including India and Bangladesh, to embrace secularism and the complete separation of the Mosque and the State. Otherwise, prepare for the funeral of the country.

The movement known as pasmanda tehreek (movement) is not coming with (any new divisions like those along) caste. In fact, the division was created and is maintained by the elite Muslim castes as it is in their interest. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, an upper caste, who also got entitled as Khan Bahadur by British Government, can be seen backing the inequality of the caste system. Many scholars and clerics remain instrumental in this hierarchical construction. We are highlighting the issue, invoking the same category of caste, which was earlier maintained to sustain inequality, to demand justice (haq). -- Mohd. Noor Hasan Azad and Khalid Anis Ansari

Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e Islami of Jammu and Kashmir is a veteran Kashmiri politician. Presently, he heads the Tehrik-e Hurriyat-e Jammu Kashmir. He talks about the Kashmir conflict and its possible solution in this exclusive interview with Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com:

Q: In your prison memoirs, Rudad-e Qafas, you write that ‘It is as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert’. But how can this be so? After all, the pioneers of Islam in India and in Kashmir itself, mainly Sufi saints, lived and preached in a society in which Muslims were a very small minority.
A: I meant to say this in a particular sense. Islam, as I said, is a complete way of life. No other path is acceptable to God. So, in the absence of an Islamic polity, it is difficult for Muslims to lead their lives entirely in accordance with the rules of Islam, which apply to social affairs as much as they do to personal affairs. For instance, Muslims in Kashmir under Indian rule live in a system where alcohol, interest and immorality are rife, so how can we lead our lives completely in accordance with Islam? Of course, Muslim minorities are Muslims, too, but their duty must be to work to establish an Islamic dispensation in the lands where they live so that they can lead their lives fully in accordance with Islam and its laws. Missionary work to spread Islam is as much of a duty as is praying and giving alms to the poor.
Now, as for your question about those Sufis who lived and worked in societies where Muslims were in a minority—they may have been pious people, but we take as our only model the Prophet Muhammad.

Q: How do you respond to media allegations that the Kashmiri movement for self-determination is ‘anti-Hindu’?

A: How can our struggle be called ‘anti-Hindu’? It is a struggle for certain principles. In Hindu mythology, when the Kauravas and the Pandavas, cousins of each other, were arrayed against each other on the battlefield, Arjun turned to Krishanji Maharaj, and told him that he could not bear to fight his own brothers. Why, he asked him, was he asking him to fight them? He wanted to refuse to fight. But, then, Krishanji Maharaj said, ‘Arjun, this is a battle for certain principles. In this, do not consider the fact that those who are opposed to you are your relatives’.
We Kashmiris, too, are engaging in such a battle for certain principles with the Indian Government, for occupying us against our will and for not acting on its promise to let us decide our own political future. It is not a war against Hindus or the people of India. It is not a communal conflict. In fact, there are many Indians who support our stand on the right to self-determination. – Syed Ali Shah Geelani to Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Ahmed Rashid is among the most sought-after experts on the Taliban, Afghanistan and his crisis-ravaged homeland. Ramon Schack asked him about the current problems in the region. An excerpt from the interview:

The greatest weakness of Karzai and his administration is surely a glaring lack of ability to govern, as manifested for example in the influence exercised by the warlords or in rampant corruption. His desire to accelerate the negotiations with the Taliban and to get a green light for his efforts from the Americans are at any rate based on shaky ground. Karzai hasn't yet taken to heart the fact that, as an Afghan, one can only negotiate with the enemy if coming from a strong position. The current weakness of the Afghan government would place constraints on such talks from the very start, destroying everything that has been achieved in Afghanistan thus far. -- Ahmed Rashid

 

Waris Mazhari is a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom At Deoband, possibly the largest traditionalist madrasa in the world. He is the editor of the New Delhi-based Urdu journal, Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Deoband madrasa’s graduates’ association. Author of numerous books in Urdu on Islamic reform, he is a doctoral student at the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, where he is working on a research project on madrasa reforms in contemporary India. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com, he critically reflects on the phenomenon of 'Islamic feminism' and on the stance of traditionalist ulema on women's issues.

Maulana Zahid ur-Rashidi is a leading Pakistani Deobandi scholar. He teaches at the Madrasa Anwar ul-Uloom and the Madrasa Nusrat ul-Ulum in Gujranwala, and the edits the influential Urdu Al-Shariah magazine, one of the few journals brought out by Pakistani ulema groups that seriously discusses issues of vital contemporary concern. He is a senior leader of the Jamiat-i Ulama-i Islam Pakistan, a leading Pakistani Deobandi political party. For several years he served as assistant to Mufti Mahmud, top leader of this party. He is a prolific writer, and has regular columns in leading Pakistani Urdu newspapers. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, exclusive to New Age Islam, the Maulana talks on a range of issues: the Taliban in Afghanistan, militancy and terrorism in Pakistan, the demand for the enforcement of the shariah, the treatment of non-Muslim minorities in his country and more.

 

Maulana Zahid ur-Rashidi is a leading Pakistani Deobandi scholar. He teaches at the Madrasa Anwar ul-Uloom and the Madrasa Nusrat ul-Ulum in Gujranwala, and the edits the influential Urdu Al-Shariah magazine, one of the few journals brought out by Pakistani ulema groups that seriously discusses issues of vital contemporary concern. He is a senior leader of the Jamiat-i Ulama-i Islam Pakistan, a leading Pakistani Deobandi political party. For several years he served as assistant to Mufti Mahmud, top leader of this party. He is a prolific writer, and has regular columns in leading Pakistani Urdu newspapers. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, exclusive to New Age Islam, the Maulana talks on a range of issues: the Taliban in Afghanistan, militancy and terrorism in Pakistan, the demand for the enforcement of the shariah, the treatment of non-Muslim minorities in his country and more

 

I see Islamic feminism as quite distinct from Islamic apologetics.  Islamic feminism confronts ideas and practices of gender inequality and injustice promoted in the name of Islam demonstrating from religious sources, foremost, the Qur’an, that these are not only un-Islamic but anti-Islamic.  Islamic feminism thus brings into the sharp light of day negative notions and behaviors found in Muslim quarters or shall we say the “bad news.”  Islamic feminism also brings the “good news” of demonstrable gender equality and justice within an Islamic framework. Thus Islamic feminism brings to attention the bad news with the good. Islamic feminism dealing with problematic gender thinking and practices checks, rereads religious texts, and offers clarifications in favor of an egalitarian reading and practice of Islam. Islamic feminism is not an apologia...

....As for Islamic feminism’s future it struck me back in the early 1990s when it was making its debut that Islamic feminism would become more secular in the sense that it would become part of a complex weave of multiple voices clamoring for gender justice and gender equality. I see that Islamic feminism is presently ushering in what I call “the new secular feminism”--a secular feminism re-invigorated by a more  robust discourse of gender equality in religious language—which celebrates inclusivity. Multiple streams will feed the new secular feminism which belongs to us all as we build it collectively. -- Margot Badran

There can be no question of Israel attacking Iran, or Iran attacking Israel. Any attack against innocent people with no true justification is unlawful according to the Torah. Every Jew who obeys the rulings of the Torah is also obliged to abide by Allah's commandment, “Thou shall not murder.” No matter how much certain circles in Israel favour conflict, bloodshed and disorder and no matter how these circles sometimes prevail, it is obvious that the great majority of Israel will not accept a physical attack on such a large and powerful country as Iran. We know what the real aim is of those who want to set Jews and Muslims against one another, and we have exposed their sinister tricks. So neither Iran nor Israel will fall for them. It is therefore essential for Jews and Muslims who genuinely believe in Allah, who love the Prophets, who

believe in the Books He sent down and who know that the Hereafter exists to form an alliance against irreligion, Darwinism, atheism and materialism. Atheists and Darwinists easily ally themselves around their own beliefs and try to crush believers, whatever their faith, with all their might. It is extraordinary how people who love Allah and want the moral values commanded by Him to prevail are unable to form an alliance while the alliance between Darwinists and materialists seeks to drown the world in blood. When true believers are allied they will obviously totally neutralize those who want war. It is therefore essential that our devout Iranian and Israeli brothers should treat one another with affection, love and understanding and wage a great intellectual struggle against irreligion, materialism and Darwinism using knowledge, science and culture. When that happens, nobody will be able to speak of war, assault, fighting or conflict. ...

I do not believe Israel will choose to do such a thing (attack Iran). True, devout Jews in Israel will not permit such an attack either. Turkey's policy has always been to support justice, the rightful and the innocent. But there is an important phenomenon to be noted here. Dajjal is trying to set Muslims and Jews, who are actually brothers and who are all descended from the Prophet Abraham (AS), against one another. It aims for the destruction of both Jews and Muslims. It is very important to expose the movement of the Dajjal and neutralize it, insha'Allah. -- Harun Yahya

Born in 1955 in the north-eastern Turkish province of Rize, the son of a village religious teacher, Ismail Kara is professor of Turkish intellectual history at the Marmara University Theology Faculty in Istanbul. An editor at Dergah Yayinlari, one of Turkey's most respected publishing houses, Kara is the author of 14 books, including Islamist Thought in Turkey, On Philosophical Language and, more recently, The Issue of Islam in Republican Turkey. Professor Kara spoke with The Majalla in his office at Marmara University, located on the Asia side of Istanbul.
In this interview with The Majalla, Ismail Kara, professor of Turkish intellectual history, speaks about Islam’s relationship with modernity and the state. Professor Kara discusses, among other things, political Islamism and its origins, and the increasing visibility of Islam in Turkey. -- Nicholas Birch
Photo: Ismail Kara

I chanced upon a report about a Muslim woman named Najma Bhangi, a high school teacher in Bijapur. The maulvis of her town had forbidden Muslim women from watching movies by visiting theatre, but this intrepid woman refused to be cowed down and went off to see a film. The enraged maulvis and other men of the town raised a ruckus against her defiance. This story was widely reported on in the media.

Question to Maulvis:

Although I was just recovering from my delivery, I got down to writing an article to express my anger at the way this hapless woman was being treated and sent it to Lankesh Patrika. In the article I asked the maulvis if Muslim women were banned from watching movies, what source of entertainment they considered permissible for them. Did they deserve any entertainment at all or not? Did Islam allow for it or not? If watching films was, as they claimed, bad for Muslim women, was it not equally bad for Muslim men? Why forbid only Muslim women from watching movies and exempt Muslim men? If movies promoted immorality, surely this applied as much to men as it did to women? -- a well-known Kannada writer and a leading social activist from Karnakata Banu Mushtaq tells Yoginder Sikand, in an exclusive interview for New Age Islam.

The Gospel of John is different from the other three gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke all have something in common: they are merely eyewitnesses. But John acts here as a writer drafting a drama like those we know from the ancient Greeks. He developed his storyline with the rigour of classical tragedy. He commences with the words: In the beginning was the word. Jesus plays the role here of a modern person who is open and familiar with the ways of the world. He acts without ideological reservations and is rebellious. His words were: I have not come to rule, but to redeem. -- Abed Azrié

 

Based in Pudukkottai, a small town in Tamil Nadu, Daud Sharifa Khanum heads the Tamil Nadu Muslim Women’s Jamaat, a network of some 25,000 Tamil Muslim women that is engaged in struggling for Muslim women’s rights and empowerment. She has been widely acknowledged for her pioneering work, for which has received national-level numerous awards. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, she speaks about work and about the manifold problems of Indian Muslim women.

The novel The Proof of the Honey by Syrian author Salwa al-Neimi is celebrated by some as a milestone of modern Arabic literature and condemned by others as scandalous prose. In an interview with Rim Najmi, the author explains that despite the lightness of its literary style, her novel poses fundamental intellectual and political questions. "In itself, writing about supposed taboo themes like sex or religion hardly suffices to qualify as literature, but, at most, merely makes for a topic of conversation," says Salwa al-Neimi

The ulema have a say as far as matters of religion are concerned, but otherwise they are not very influential. As far as north India is concerned, Muslim organizations have done little by way of social work after the Partition, so they have no influence on or utility for most Muslims. What these organisations or tanzeems do is that they capitalize on their liaison with ulema and bargain with political parties. These tanzeems and jamaats you refer to have never been able to deliver anything to Muslims. They survive simply because the Congress or some other ruling party occasionally talks to them for political posturing. During the period of BJP rule, many of these sought to curry favour with it. No one really listens to these jamaats and tanzeems seriously. For many of these, their politics is simply business. -- Salman Khurshid

The Koran says that all men are created by God. When we are talking about sexual orientation, we’re talking about something that is given, like being left-handed, like skin color. We have no choice in it. I think that as long as [homosexual people] do not engage in actions that are considered sinful by the religion, as long as they do not deceive, commit adultery, indulge in pedophilia, commit incest, what’s wrong [with their sexual orientation]? But then people ask, so then they can marry? When we’re talking about Koranic verses, the degree of liberalness is astounding. [The Koran says] marry thy spouse. [The word spouse, which is] zau z in the Koran, can mean a man or a woman. This is extraordinary. The Koran is very liberal. -- Ade Mardiyati

In 1979 in Iran, a religion directly seized power. I always say of myself that I defended and safeguarded my piety against the Islamic Republic, which was not an easy thing to do. I don't get involved – I, as a declared opponent of this republic – in campaigning against Islam or against Christianity. That's not my kind of thing. What has happened now, coupled with the terrorism that is financed and supported by Iran, is a political issue. We have to fight the political version. While Hizbollah is causing such havoc in Lebanon, Jordan is right next door, where a liberal government that maintains good relations with Israel is in power. So it can't be a problem with Islam, but with the structure of the society. Yet some Europeans make this mistake, and condemn Islam – a fatal error! – SAID

The intellectuals were and still are the target of religious zealots, who have a fundamental problem with critical, free thought. They operate on the streets and recruit supporters primarily from the ranks of the uneducated people whom they can manipulate with their doctrine. Writers and artists have long been a thorn in their eye – just think of Nagib Mahfuz, one of the greatest intellectuals of the Arab world.

When several excerpts from his work "The Children of Our Alley" appeared in the newspaper "al-Ahram" in 1959, it was the ultraconservative groups that prevented the preprint of the book. Mahfuz was repeatedly confronted with the accusation of blasphemy and violation of Islam. As a consequence, this book was only published in Arabic in Egypt a few years ago. In 1994, Mahfuz was attacked with a knife in broad daylight by a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. He survived but he was badly injured. You see how long this conflict has already been smouldering in Egypt. I'm just another link in this chain of hostilities. -- Gamal al-Ghitany

 

I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. Every day in the news there is an Arab, a black, an immigrant, an illegal immigrant, a poor soul … as far back as I can remember. I've never been short of material! And now, we're being forced to listen to a debate about national identity. I could write buckets of songs about it. But I'm ashamed!..

They are installing a white race, creating an anonymous white identity – and it's working. And people say "yes, it's an interesting debate." I can't deny what I feel inside: my disgust with this white race they are suggesting. It's when you hear people like the interior minister Brice Hortefeux talk about Arabs and say "When there's one, that's ok – it's when there are several that it becomes problematic." ----- Magyd Cherfi

 

Malalai Joya was also called ‘Afghanistan’s most famous woman’, by BBC. However, she hardly grabs headlines in pro-Taliban mainstream Pakistani media even if she is a household name in Afghanistan. Joya shot to fame back in 2003 at the Loya Jirga convened to ratify Afghanistan’s new constitution. Unlike US-sponsored clean-shaven fundamentalists, Joya was not nominated by Karzai but elected by the people of Farah province to represent them at Loya Jirga. She stunned the Loya Jirga and journalists present on the occasion (including Pakistan’s Ahmed Rashid), when she unleashed a three-minute hard-hitting speech exposing the crimes of warlords controlling Loya Jirga. Grey-bearded Sibghatullah Mojadadi, chairing the Loya Jirga, called her an ‘infidel’ and a ‘communist’. Other beards present on the occasion also shouted at her. But before she was silenced by an angry mob of war lords around, she had electrified Afghanistan with her courageous speech. Ahmed Rashid, in his latest book ‘Descent into Chaos’, narrates every detail about Loya Jirga but carefully avoids Joya’s mention. During the course of these three fateful minutes, the course of Joya’s life was also changed. In her native province of Farah, locals wanted her to represent them in elections. -- Farooq Sulehria

 

Let me cite an instance to clarify this point. In March 2008, the All India Milli Council, of which I am the General Secretary, organised a mammoth convention in Delhi, which was attended by over one hundred thousand people. We discussed various issues related to Muslim educational and economic empowerment, about what both Muslims as well as the state should do about this. We also demanded that the government should set up a judicial commission to investigate cases of terrorism or alleged terrorism involving Muslims in the last fifteen years headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court so that the truth about charges against Muslims being involved in terrorism could be verified. The media did not highlight this or any other demand of ours. Only some non-Muslim papers mentioned the rally, and that too in some remote corner of an inside page, summing it up in just two lines. Urdu media gave full information but national and Hindi media gave very little information. -- Manzoor Alam

On this let me add a point that we tend not to think about. Just as non-Muslim fellow Indians like Teesta and Manisha and many others are struggling for justice to Muslims, we Muslims, too, must raise our voice for, and work for and with, non-Muslims who face similar problems—Dalits, workers, Adivasis, and so on. Our leadership must not remain obsessed with specifically ‘Muslim’ issues, very narrowly defined. We need to wholeheartedly participate in movements on general issues, issues that affect everyone, as well as in the movements of other marginalized people. Only then can we be in a position to give, rather than just take. Only then can we win the respect and regard of others. We can’t keep demanding things and not helping others, or even ourselves. We have to recognize the urgent need to be much more inclusive and open. -- Profesor Akhtarul Wasey

Sufism is authentic Islam, and Islam is a religion of victory. Our Prophet was victorious. Islam offers hope, hope for victory in the end despite all odds. If we lose hope, we lose faith. As the saying goes, loss of hope leads to infidelity. The Prophet explained this maxim beautifully when he said that if one has a sapling in one’s hand and the Day of Judgment is just about to arrive, one must still plant it. That is the spirit of hope in the face of trials that Islam talks about. As a Muslim, I believe that trials come from God. Wahhabism is one such trial, but, in the end, I know we shall triumph over it. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

Islam teaches me to learn with other people and other groups. For me, Islam represents unity, and not just among Muslims. We have to be respectful, tolerant, and peaceful with others. Lakum dinukum waliyadin means “To you be your way, and to me mine” (Qur’an 109:06). This verse promotes tolerance toward other religions and other groups.  All human beings are family, and this is my understanding of the essence of Islamic teaching. -- Nurish Amanah

Photo: Nurish and Raquel

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