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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

May 29, 2004

Call to prayer.

The story of the mosque in Hammtrack, Michhigan desirous of broadcasting the muslim call to prayer from its mosque (as is customary in other countries) is a fascinating one. This article in the Detroit Free Press is possibly the best one I've yet seen on the topic. It's well-worth a read.

My opinion varies, but I have zero sympathy for any argument which suggests that the call to prayer somehow threatens the community in any way. Perhaps Hammtrack will be a symbolic line in the sand against the censoring power of the rising anti-muslim tide that causes muslims in American to remember that they do not need to choose between being American or Muslim, but that they should be aggressive in loving both and the revelation that these aspects of identity are in harmony, not conflict.

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Why I cannot hate George W. Bush.

President Bush was interviewed by Christianity Today:

Do you believe there is anything inherently evil in the way some practice Islam that stands in the way of the pursuit of democracy and freedom?

I think what we’re dealing with are people — extreme, radical people — who’ve got a deep desire to spread an ideology that is anti-women, anti-free thought, anti- art and science, you know, that couch their language in religious terms. But that doesn’t make them religious people. I think they conveniently use religion to kill. The religion I know is not one that encourages killing. I think that they want to drive us out of parts of the world so they’re better able to have a base from which to operate. I think it’s very much more like an... “ism” than a group with territorial ambition.

More like a what?

An “ism” like Communism that knows no boundaries, as opposed to a power that takes land for gold or land for oil or whatever it might be. I don’t see their ambition as territorial. I see their ambition as seeking safe haven. And I know they want to create power vacuums into which they are able to flow.

To what final end? The expansion of Islam?

No, I think the expansion of their view of Islam, which would be I guess a fanatical version that—you know, you’re trying to lure me down a road [where]... I’m incapable of winning the debate. But I’m smart enough to understand when I’m about to get nuanced out. No, I think they have a perverted view of what religion should be, and it is not based upon peace and love and compassion—quite the opposite. These are people that will kill at the drop of a hat, and they will kill anybody, which means there are no rules. And that is not, at least, my view of religion. And I don’t think it’s the view of any other scholar’s view of religion either.


Bush is a good man and I will never forget that immediately after 9-11, his first thought was to remind people that American muslims are not the enemy. I cannot hate a man like this. I can, however, vote against Bush in 2004 without needing to hate him, because I do hate what his weak leadership has done to my nation and the lost promise of being a uniter rather than a divider.

But you won't ever find me sneering at George W. Bush. IF you do, point me here so that I can be properly humbled.

link via LGF - I am grateful to Charles for finding this link.

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May 25, 2004

Bohras: The Last Frontier?.

Here's a fascinating peek into the worldview of the prosletyzing Christian worldview - a fact-sheet about my comunity discussing we Bohras as a target group for salvation and the challenges in bringing the Gospels to us. What's remarkable is the confluence of valid observation with false stereotype, such as this:

Unlike other South Asian Muslims, Bohra women may own property and receive an inheritance. They are encouraged to pursue education and business.

The role of the Bohras as a business class has created a people whose primary passion is business—a threat to their strict orthodox obedience to their religious leader, the Syedna Muhammad Burhanuddin.


The truth is that the promotion of women's education - with an emphasis on professional classes such as physicians - is by direct edict of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin TUS, not in opposition to his wishes. The way that this essay simply ascribes the embrace of modernism within my comunity as a non-Islamic-derived impetus reveals a basic unwillingness to part with their a-priori notions in favor of a straw-man characterization that justifies their attempts at conversion. I daresay that if they were to make an honest appraisal, it would be they who might be swayed away from their Christ rather than the other way around :)

Yes, we are the Last Frontier and such we will always remain to such as these.

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May 12, 2004

Arabs react to murder of Peter Berg.

In addition to a good piece on NPR this morning, here are some roundups of opinion from the Arab street about the barbarous murder of Peter Berg by Al-Qaeda militants:

source: Islam Online - Iraqis condemn beheading of American civilian

BAGHDAD, May 12 (IslamOnline.net) - Iraqis strongly condemned Wednesday, May13 , the beheading of an American citizen in Iraq by unknown people, saying it is against the true essence of Islam.

Dr Muthana Harith al-Dhari, Secretary General of Muslim Scholars Association, strongly denounced the killing, saying it runs counter to the teachings of Islam and "does disservice to our religion and our cause."
[...]
Deputy Head of the Islamic Party Iyaad Samarrai said the abhorrent treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers should never give an excuse for treating U.S. prisoners the same way.

"This is absolutely wrong," he told IOL, asserting that "Islam does prohibit the killing or the maltreatment of prisoners."
[...]
Al-Dawa Party, led by Shiite Interim Governing Council member Ibrahim Al-Jafari, also condemned the decapitation of the American citizen in the strongest possible terms.

"Undoubtedly, we reject these acts, which run counter to the true essence of Islam and are totally unjustified," said Jawad Al-Malki, a member of the party's politburo.

He said such acts tarnish the image of Islam and play into the hands of subjective media.

"The beheading of Berg is shocking, grisly, unjustified violence and an act of terrorism," he told IOL.

"By the same token, we condemn the barbaric and terrorist practices of U.S. soldiers against Iraqi prisoners, but as we don't want this to befall our people, we don't want it to befall others as well."
[...]
William Warda, an Iraqi rights activist, criticized the beheading as "imprudent".

He said the Iraqi Human Rights Organization denounces the killing of any foreigner in such a gruesome way as it has condemned the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by occupation forces.

"We place all human beings on an equal footing irrespective of their race, religion and color," he told IOL.


source: The Age - Iraqis condemn beheading, blame US

"As Muslims we can't accept it, but we don't blame them. It was a natural reaction to the human rights violations we have seen at Abu Ghraib. What the Americans are doing now is terrible," said a 45-year-old woman dentist who refused to give her name.
[...]
"Since the man came here to do something good for Iraq, it was shameful. Whoever comes to serve this country will be treated kindly by Iraqis, but I blame the Americans for being behind such activities," said restaurant worker Falah Faisal, 30.
[...]
But Muaid Louis Abdullah Ahhad, a Christian who owns a photo shop, denounced the execution and blamed followers of wanted al-Qaeda militant Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi for the beheading.

Zarqawi, who has a bounty of $US10 million ($A14.39 million) on his head, is accused by Washington of leading a network in Iraq that has carried out attacks against the US-led coalition and civilians aimed at fanning civil conflict.

The video of Berg's killing was entitled "Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi slaughtering an American", though it was not clear if he was involved.

"These people aren't Muslims. They are just using Islam as a cover and are harming the reputation of this religion," said a 50-year-old Shi'ite engineer for Iraqi Airways who also refused to give his name.

"I didn't know about it, but if he was an American, he was innocent. He came to Iraq on a mission to help Iraqis," said Ali Abu Nabi, a 29-year-old house painter.

But his friend, Ahmed Taleb, 24, a kiosk owner, poured scorn on the Americans, saying they had done nothing to rebuild the country.

"It's the poverty that's leading these criminals to act in such a way," he said.


Overall, the reaction might best be summarized as this: horror at the beheading, outrage over the justification using Islam, and some sympathy for the revenge aspect (in terms of assigning partial blame). Since by the US military's own estimates, about 70-90% of the detainees at Abu Ghraib were innocents, I'm inclined to dismiss the latter the way I dismiss Oklahoma Senator Inhofe's dishonorable statements.

There is a useful article on Islam Online about what Islam teaches about treatment of Prisoners of War. The invocation of the murderers of Peter Berg of the Prophet SAW as justification of their acts was particularly obscene and they will pay a price in hellfire - American first, afterlife second. Bill Allison notes that the article was spurred by the Abu Ghraib torture rather than the beheading of Berg; however I think that the detail doesn't really have direct relevance, given teh reactions above.

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May 9, 2004

Ayatollahs against theocracy.

via Pejman Yousefzadeh, comes an example of moderate (ie, theological mainstream) muslim leaders speaking out against tyranny in Islam's name:

"Seyyed Hossein Khomeini, a Shi'ite Islamic cleric like his grandfather the late Ayatollah Khomeini, told the Voice of America had he been in his grandfather's shoes he 'would never have taken such an action as issuing the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.'

"In an exclusive interview that aired today, Khomeini told the VOA Persian television show News and Views that, historically, some Shiite leaders and scholars have considered themselves Velayat Faghih (supreme leaders) who expect people to abide by their verdicts, even when they involve death sentences. Although his grandfather was included in this group, he pointed out Islam accords this kind of decision-making authority only to prophets, not to ordinary people.

"Khomeini went on to say that he is open to the idea of meeting author Salman Rushdie after watching a series of interviews with Rushdie on VOA, believing that he might benefit from the writer's knowledge about religion, especially the religions in the author's native India."


Note that this is the grandson of the Ayatollah who personifies the face of Iranian clerical oppression. The important thing to realize is that teh freedom to speak out so forthrightly is a fragile one. Many muslims living in tyrannical states cannot speak freely. In iRan, the reason that such public dissent is even thinkable is precisely because the reform movement has been growing from within, a groundswell that is entirely homegrown. If, as the hard-liner neocons demand, America were to pose a military threat to Iran, rest assured that all the progress that has been won at such cost would be undone in a moment.

Contrast Iran with Iraq. Liberty cannot be granted, it can only be aided, by an external entity. If democracy takes root - as seems inevitable - in Iran, it will be far more robust than the pseudo-sovereign Iraq that will be no different from Egypt in being a US client state. Iraq is the rhetoric, Iran is the reality. Maybe.

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About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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