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Middle East Press (23 Nov 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Islam and Politics: Indonesia's Identity Crisis: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 November 2016





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 November 2016

Islam and Politics: Indonesia's Identity Crisis

By Dina Afrianty

Iranians, With Light in Hand, Look After Obama

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Commemorating Allama Iqbal on His Birth Anniversary

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Aleppo Assault Aims To Displace 275,000 People

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Islam and Politics: Indonesia's Identity Crisis

By Dina Afrianty

Modern Indonesia is testimony to the ability of transition democracies to construct a constitutional framework that can guarantee equality, security and freedom from discrimination for all citizens.

Since 1998's Reformasi (the period of transition after the fall of Indonesia's dictator, Suharto), Indonesians have seen how political reforms can deliver freedom of expression, consolidate the role of political parties - including Islamic parties - and for Indonesians to exercise their right to vote in open and transparent elections.

Yet, almost two decades later, we are witnessing a significant political crisis that suggests there is a widening gulf between those who support constitutional government, and those who use Islam as a basis to challenge the pluralist assumptions behind contemporary democratic politics.

Indeed, the now-regular appeals to Indonesians to promote their identity as members of the ummah as a priority over being members of the voting public, means that religious identity threatens to displace citizenship as a key organising principle.

The raising of a charge of blasphemy against the Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is presenting a major challenge for President Joko Widodo (also known as Jokowi).

The case arises in the middle of a hard-fought campaign in which Ahok is seeking to be elected in his own right, after assuming the post following Jokowi's move into national politics.

The Blasphemy Charge

Ahok was formally named a suspect on November 16 by the Indonesian National Police, after less than two weeks of mounting pressure, driven by radicals and conservative Muslims who mobilised tens of thousands in a rally on November 4, in Central Jakarta.

The key group behind the rally was the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). FPI accused Ahok of insulting the Quran when he encouraged a small audience, during his work visit, not to be deceived by those who sought to use Quranic verse of Al-Maidah 51 to prevent voters selecting a non-Muslim leader.

The allegation of blasphemy against Ahok was validated by a fatwa issued by National Ulema Council (MUI). This quasi-government institution was created under the authoritarian government of Suharto in the early 1970s, and it regularly seeks to express authoritative rulings on issues of public interest.

The meaning and application Al-Maidah 51 was subject to debate in the weeks leading up to the rally. Opinion among everyone, from noted Islamic scholars to ordinary members of the public, ranged across fundamental questions, including the importance of both the Quran and "ulama" to Muslim identity and citizenship, to the meaning of the verse itself, and methods of Quranic interpretation.

Despite this open and public debate, those attacking Ahok are adamant that the faith had been insulted.

Moreover, the candidate and all others not sharing their view have been labelled "liberal" or "kafir" (unbeliever).

Even respected scholars including Professor Syafii Maarif, the former Chairman of the leading modernist Muslim group Muhammadiyah is not exempt from attack and criticism.

Identity Politics

For moderate Muslims, however, the case is primarily political and represents driven a classic, multilayered Jakarta political drama.

The leader of FPI, Habib Rizieq, a member of the small Indonesian Arabic community, is known to have strong links with Jakarta's indigenous population, the Betawi.

More controversially, former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is suspected to be behind the rally, since he is assisting his son, Agus Yudhoyono, in his bid for the governorship.

Yudhoyono favoured conservative religious causes during his time as president and the candidacy of his son, who retired from the military to stand, is a political gamble to keep the family's political fortunes alive.

The crisis engages significant issues beyond these merely political dimensions. In fact, it is hard not to conclude that it may help determine the future of Indonesia's national identity.

Long applauded as a moderate and pluralist Muslim nation (the home of "smiling Islam"), Indonesia has regularly resolved political debates about religion and the state by settling upon constitutional and democratic mechanisms. However, conservative Muslim voices regularly seek to challenge the country's status as a, broadly, secular state.

This current challenge is particularly dramatic, involving as it does, political elites, radical conservatives and the most high profile subject to date of the blasphemy regime. It is also troubling, due to the confluence of racial and religious themes, which are being exploited for electoral gain.

A Test for Indonesia's Democracy

Even the option of allowing the legal process to run its course does not offer great comfort. The legal provisions in the blasphemy regime are ambiguous, at best, and the various legal institutions including the courts can be subject to political influence. Further, both conviction or acquittal are likely to attract a negative response from different factions.

Therefore, ultimately, the Ahok case will be a fascinating and critical test of Indonesia's democracy. Assuming he remains able to contest the election, the public, appropriately, will have the most important contribution to make through casting their ballots.

Success for Ahok will likely be read as vindication by the few who have sought to defend constitutional governance over populist, religiously inspired protests.

Failure may prove harder to interpret. It could be seen either as a reward for radical brinkmanship, as a legitimate critique of the candidates, or as morally inspired condemnation.

One thing seems clear, and that is, that the intensity and scale of the actions by the anti-Ahok coalition has, arguably, taken to a new level the deployment of Islam as a tool in Indonesian politics.

Dina Afrianty is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society, Australian Catholic University. She is also a fellow at the Centre for Social Difference at Columbia University and affiliates of State Islamic University, Jakarta.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/11/islam-politics-indonesia-identity-crisis-161121082414557.html

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Iranians, With Light in Hand, Look After Obama

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

22 November 2016

A year ago, the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States engaged in seemingly friendly relations, sparking speculation that ties between the two countries could warm in the wake of the nuclear deal.

This came after almost four decades of animosity and bitter relations between the two nations that not only saw Iran suffer but also impacted regional and international diplomacy.

When the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini died there was still no improvement in relations and under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s leadership mixed signals were indicative of internal conflicts of interests.

The hostility reached a level of possible military confrontation over Iran’s controversial nuclear program back in 2012-13. Then a page turned to the most friendly time since the revolution when Hassan Rowhani was elected president in 2013.

Obama offered an olive branch to Iran, one which resulted in the Iranian nuclear deal. However, even if particular presidents seek to restore relations with the US, Iranian politics are much more complicated.

A beautiful description of post-revolution Iran was made by the former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad who talked about the two faces of Iran.

“One Iran is the Iran of Mohammad Javad Zarif who was negotiating with us and the other Iran is the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who have a mission to destroy what the government has built,” Khalilzad said that in his book “The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House.”

The Softer Iran

But during the Iranian nuclear talks, the softer Iran represented by the government gained traction over the hard Iran represented by IRGC. Their success at reaching the nuclear agreement gave them an incredible opportunity to reduce tension with the US but, unfortunately, tension in Syria and across the Middle East caught Zarif and Rowhani off-guard.

Iran has a nuclear deal which protects its right to enrich low-grade uranium and allows them to enter the international market. However, what they missed out on was the opportunity to improve their image. Hostile and frowning, Iranian diplomats didn’t miss a chance to label everyone their enemy. It is hard to say if even Rowhani can mend ties with the next US administration to the level he had with Obama.

It looks like the good times between Iran and the US is coming to an end. The era of phone calls between Secretary John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, shared meals at Iranian restaurants in Montreux and Nowrouz tables at the White House is coming to an end.

The Iran of the IRGC didn’t seize upon President Obama’s generosity and extraordinary softness toward the Islamic Republic. The cold wind of change with the new administration in Washington is chilling and reminds me of the time when George W. Bush called Iran a part of the “Axis of Evil” along with North Korea and Iraq.

Of course, the situation and circumstances wouldn’t be as bad as the early 2000s but will never be as good as during Obama’s presidency.

“It will be a day that us, with light in hand, look after Obama and Kerry,” prominent Iranian scholar Sadeq Ziba Kalam said to Nasim online to express his concern over Donald Trump’s presidency.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/11/22/Iranians-with-light-in-hand-look-after-Obama.html

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Commemorating Allama Iqbal on His Birth Anniversary

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Nov 23, 2016

The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a seminar to mark the 139th birth anniversary of the world-renowned Muslim poet and philosopher Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Several prominent figures from the Pakistani community in Jeddah attended the function, which began with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an.

Some great poems of Iqbal were recited on the occasion. Some of the attendees also recited their own poems, eulogizing this great Muslim icon who made outstanding contributions in the fields of poetry, philosophy, law, politics and economy. But his popularity as a poet outshone all other aspects in which he was a distinguished figure. Iqbal was widely known as the “Poet of the East” and the “Philosopher of Islam”. The poems of Iqbal were translated into several languages, including Arabic. Several famous singers have recited his poems.

The Guest of Honor at the Jeddah seminar was Saeed Farah Al-Ghamdi, former permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He commended the Pakistani community in general and the organizers of the event in particular for commemorating Allama Iqbal, who was a legend in philosophy and poetry, which is recognized not only in Pakistan and in Muslim counteies, but all over the world.

He pointed out that Pakistan is a country rich in natural resources with people who have intelligence and creativity to work for the betterment of the country. However, Pakistan, like other countries in the Third World, is in need of good governance so as to be able to rise to the ranks of developed nations.

At the outset of my speech, I thanked the PRC for holding such an event to commemorate Allama Iqbal. I pointed out that those who spoke before me had dealt at length with the unique personality of Iqbal. Therefore, I wanted to focus on the poetic talents of this great genius.

Allama Iqbal became famous in the Arab world mainly because of his poetry. Renowned Indian Islamic scholar and thinker Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi wrote a book about Allama Iqbal called “Masterpieces of Iqbal.” These include translations and interpretation of some of Iqbal’s poems.

These poems include one that is an address to the Arab nation. In the seminar, I shed light on the theme of this poem as explained by Iqbal. In the beginning of the poem, Iqbal explains the virtues and characteristic features of the Arab nation as it was blessed with the first opportunity to carry the eternal message of Islam brought by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was instrumental in bringing about a renaissance of humanity with the divine religion revealed to him.

Allama Iqbal then addresses the Arab nation, saying that the eternal message of Islam came out of the Arab desert and subsequently lit the world. He emphasized that the Arabs were honored by God to take precedence in reading the Holy Qur’an and Allah revealed to them the secret of monotheism, and He blessed them to become brothers bound by the ideology of Islam.

Iqbal also emphasizes that the Prophet (pbuh), an illiterate, brought back fertility and growth to the barren desert, and gave the human body heart and soul, and smashed all idols. The Prophet (pbuh) created several heroes and leaders of believers. Science, wisdom, law, religion, power and administration took their origin from the light of religion. He also says that Al-Hamra Palace in Granada whose beauty and majesty mesmerized even great artists, is a manifestation of the genius of the Muslim nation, after having been inspired from the divine book revealed to the Prophet (pbuh).

Allama Iqbal mentions in the poem the backwardness and chaos in which the Arabs were engulfed before the time of the Prophet (pbuh). After speaking about the glory and victories gained by Arabs because of Islam, he laments their plight due to their disunity and failure in holding fast to the teachings of Islam. Islam united them to become a single nation and a single party. However, later they became different nations and different parties because of their loss of the essence of Islam.

Iqbal warns Arabs about the machinations of the West and its poisoned arrows. He then asks the Arabs to regain their glory and strength and lead the caravan of humanity to its lofty level. He then turns to the spirit of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), complaining: “The unity of your Ummah has been shaken, O Muhammad: the Messenger of Allah; to where shall we head for peace and shelter?”

Concluding the event, Syed Ehsanul Haque, convener of the PRC, thanked the speakers and attendees. He urged Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give due acknowledgement to Allama Iqbal’s contributions to Pakistan. Haque condemned cancelation of the national holiday on Iqbal Day, saying that it will send a negative message to the younger generation about the great poet. He appealed to include Iqbal’s mission as part of the curriculum to be taught to the young in Pakistan. Haque also called for establishing a university named after Allama Iqbal exclusively for teaching his poems and philosophy.

The PRC leader demanded the United Nations to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir in line with its earlier resolutions. He also thanked the Pakistani prime minister for the creation of a parliamentary committee, headed by the deputy foreign minister, to discuss the issue of the repatriation and rehabilitation of the stranded Pakistanis who have been languishing in squalid camps in Bangladesh for 45 years.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/commemorating-allama-iqbal-birth-anniversary/

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Aleppo Assault Aims To Displace 275,000 People

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

22 November 2016

East Aleppo is living through tragic and bleak days which neither words nor photos can describe. The Russian air force is shelling the city, while Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Iran’s militias are attacking the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, Hezbollah militias are blocking the roads which provide supplies to the area. Five hospitals have been destroyed. The one which was most recently destroyed is a children’s hospital which jets shelled using Chlorine gas. There are no longer any places where people can transfer the thousands of injured to.

Most attacks deliberately target the areas where there are civilians and not fighters. Why do they do that? It’s because they want to aggravate the tragedy, twist the world’s arm and displace whoever is left in the residential areas towards the Turkish borders. This is why they rejected requests to allow international relief supplies through and rejected Turkey and the UN’s proposal for the city’s autonomy. They’ve refused all solutions that end the tragedy. Meanwhile, the increasing operations of destruction continue around the clock. As one woman said, she tries to sleep just to escape the tragedy.

Despite all this, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem said: “We do not accept the solution of the city’s autonomy. We will not allow aid to be delivered to the city, and we will not leave East Aleppo - with the 275,000 residents left in it - the captive of 6,000 terrorists.”

The truth is the opposite of that. Assad’s forces and his Iranian and Russian allies are the ones who have taken the city’s residents as hostages and exploited them. They besiege and attack the city through the policy of starving its people, destroying houses and targeting hospitals. This does not only aim to eliminate 6,000 members of the Free Syrian Army but it is part of a plan to make Aleppo uninhabitable.

Aleppo’s massacre is happening before the entire world’s eyes. But despite the statements, no one is doing anything to stop it, which is the basis that paves the way for the upcoming phase of Syria’s “wars,” even if the Syrian army manages to storm the last FSA post and seize control over it.

Those we are talking about are FSA fighters, not terrorist group fighters such as al-Nusra Front. The regime and its allies have come nowhere near to the militants, but still use them to justify their tactics, like they do to justify the resumption of their plan which will displace people and seize control of the city under the excuse of fighting Nusra and ISIS terrorists.

Ever since the fighting widened last year, Assad’s forces, Hezbollah militias, the rest of the extremist Shiite groups and the Russian air force have not fought ISIS like they pledged they would. The party that is fighting ISIS in ar-Raqqah and other areas is the US-led coalition which facilitated Iran’s and Assad’s task and strengthened extremist Shiite militias which devoted their time to fight people in several areas that are mainly Sunni in order to solidify a sectarian Alawaite governance that follows a very small minority. What’s happening today is really mad and it will have deep and long-term repercussions in the near future.

The Domino Effect of Defeat

What’s the next phase after Assad’s fall? The FSA, which represented the major power against the regime over the last five years and which represents the majority of Syrians, will weaken and may even disintegrate. Many of its fighters will leave its ranks to join armed, extremist Islamist groups like ISIS, al-Nusra Front and others.

Some may wonder what the difference between the FSA and al-Nusra Front is, since they all fight Assad. There is a huge difference and it lies in the purpose of fighting. FSA fighters are Syrians whose patriotic goal is to liberate their land and country from the regime which they disagree with. Al-Nusra Front fighters, who are mostly Syrians unlike ISIS fighters who are mostly foreigners, have religious goals such as fighting infidels as they believe that most people are infidels - including their own countrymen who are Sunnis - and they aspire to establish their extremist caliphate and pursue jihad across the world.

The current massacre in Aleppo and the massacres in Edleb’s and Hama’s countryside will push thousands of Syrians to join al-Nusra Front because it’s the only remaining party that’s willing to fight the regime. It’s through al-Nusra Front that they can get back at their enemies and the entire world. I am not talking about this for the purpose of begging support for the FSA; however. What the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime are currently doing, i.e. sowing sectarian divisions in addition to the expanded murder of civilians and systematic displacement, will not be forgotten.

East Aleppo may fall within days and other cities may fall afterwards as well. However the crisis will expand and the threat on the region and the world will double.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/11/22/Aleppo-assault-aims-to-displace-275-000-people-.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/islam-and-politics--indonesia-s-identity-crisis--new-age-islam-s-selection,-23-november-2016/d/109170





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