"Iqbal [...] did not like the idea of importing the Western democratic system and transplanting it as such in the Islamic world because of its extreme secular stance. He still suggested in his writings that there was no alternative to democracy in the Muslim World. Iqbal observed that if the foundations of democracy were to rest upon spiritual and moral values, it would be the best political system for the world. He wrote in the "The New Era" July 28th, 1917 issue: "Democracy was born in Europe from economic renaissance that took place in most of its societies. But democracy in the Islamic context is not to be developed from the idea of economic advancement alone; it is also a spiritual principle that comes from the fact that every individual is a source of power whose potentialities are to be developed through virtue and character."
Gülen argues that democracy, whilst not perfect, is the best option available for political arrangements since it allows people to govern themselves; this he bases on the Qur'anic principle of individuals and societies being responsible for their own fate:
"As Islam holds individuals and societies responsible for their own fate, people must be responsible for governing themselves. The Qur’an addresses society with such phrases as: “O people!” and “O believers!” The duties entrusted to modern democratic system are those that Islam refers to society and classifies, in order of importance, as “absolutely necessary, relatively necessary, and commendable to carry out.” People cooperate with one another in sharing these duties and establishing the essential foundations necessary to perform them. The government is composed of all of these foundations. Thus, Islam recommends a government based on a social contract. People elect the administrators, and establish a council to debate issues. Also, the society as a whole participates in auditing the administration."
And on the subject of Al-Mawrid, the editor of its Urdu journal Ishraq, Manzoorul Hassan, has been shot in what the newspaper suggests was attempted murder (free registration required). This says something about Pakistani Islam and its violent undercurrent. Al-Mawrid has taken positions on Islamic law in Pakistan which can be described as 'liberal' (that is not confined to the paradigms of traditional authorities), although if you read the works of Al-Mawrid's founder, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, they're quite conservative. Eteraz and Haroon have more on this.
Sharif Islam: "[Matti] Bunzl's recognizes some validity of the analogy between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: "Both, after all, are exclusionary ideologies mobilized in the interest of collective engineering." But similarities end there. Anti-Semitism was designed to protect the purity of the ethnic nation-state, whereas Islamophobia is a project to "safeguard the future of European civilization.""
"One of the problems we face in the search for better community relations is our insistence on sticking to the idea of the "community leader." In a modern democracy, the idea that there is such a thing as a community leader and that he has the ability to prevent extremism among “his people” continues to be an important plank of government policy. But it needs rethinking."
"In this atmosphere of fear, despair and mistrust, Chechens are reluctant to talk about their experiences to visiting human rights researchers or local human rights groups. Those who agree to talk ask us not to mention their names, their villages, or anything that would enable the authorities to identify them. The Kadyrovtsy, they believe, will find them wherever they are. As one elderly Chechen put it, 'Every word you say will be used against you.'
A few months ago, Movlid M.'s wife and brother left their home in a small village in central Chechnya, for a short trip to a nearby town. They never returned. Movlid started looking for them. After his brother's burned-out car was found, he petitioned the authorities, requesting an investigation. Eventually he was called in to identify his brother's mutilated body, which had been found in a remote forest. He redoubled his efforts to find his wife and repeatedly visited the prosecutor's office and police stations, to no effect.
These killings, disappearances and acts of torture are happening, unabated, in a country that is a member of the newly formed UN Human Rights Council. Russia is the current chair of the Council of Europe and is preparing to host the G8 summit, to be attended by George Bush, Tony Blair and other world leaders, in St Petersburg later this month. This incongruity is hard to fathom, just as it is hard to understand how European governments – in spite of their much touted commitment to human rights and the rule of law – can continue to refuse to raise the issue of the continuing abuses in the region. It used to be the case that one could at least be certain that Western governments would speak out against human rights abuses in the USSR. There can be no such certainty with respect to Putin’s Russia."
Tony Blair and the Neo-Labour clones, who trotted out on Question Time or Newsnight to defend Iraq as a 'humanitarian' war, continue to remain silent about the tragedy and horror of Chechnya. Where the world rushed to demand the independence of East Timor, it remains silent in the face of Chechen demands. Is it any wonder then that, in the face of rebuffs to legitimate concerns, the space is filled by extremists and bandits?
Please visit the Save Chechnya campaign for more information and see if you can help by raising awareness.
In this post I simply want to look a few key ideas presented by some groups, notably Hizb al-Tahrir. These beliefs are emotive mantras which are thrown at Muslims if they show scepticism towards their ideology.
Myth #1: Muslims have always been ruled by a single caliphate for "1400 years". This idea forms the bedrock for much of the Party's vacuous propaganda; but this was never the case. At times there were numerous claimants to the caliphate (e.g. the Spanish Umayyads, Abbassids and Fatimids all claimed the caliphate). At other times, the caliphate was merely a symbol of power, for real power resided with the sultans (e.g. Seljuks or Mamluks). And there were Muslims living under empires and dynasties for hundreds of years where the khilafah was never really claimed or even existed (India, Safavid Iran and West Africa, where, incidentally, the Sokoto Caliphate was formed); yet no one disputes these as being 'Islamic' forms of governments, even if they might only be considered nominally Islamic. Lastly, even the Ottoman Empire, although considered an Islamic form of government by their subjects, did not use the formal title of caliph until 1774, when they lost to the Russians at Küçük Kaynarca. That’s over two centuries after the Ottomans destroyed the last vestige of Mamluk authority.
Myth #2: The year 1924 marked the end of Islam as it was meant to be: an ideological system which defines the social, cultural, educational, and legal aspects of Islam and Islamic societies through the khilafah system. So all those Muslims in China from close to the year dot (using the AH calendar) have never actually lived a true Islam? The year 1924 marked the end of the decrepit Ottoman Empire and the ushering in of the secular republic of Turkey. Nothing more, nothing less.
Myth #3: The Prophet (upon whom be peace) and his close companions ruled by something called the khilafah system. Maybe on Planet Hizb. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) and his close companions ruled by something called "Islam", surprisingly enough. Not only that, his companions, faced with such an enormously expanding empire, introduced a variety of features, and kept much of the bureaucracy in the places they conquered (it was the Ummayads who made Arabic the language of government). What would be interesting is a closer look at Byzantine and Persian ideas of kingship and government and how these might have influenced Muslim empires (for better or for worse).
Myth #4: The caliphate, under Ottoman stewardship, collapsed due to foreign inteference. The Ottomans, like the British, French, Spanish, Russians, Germans, Austro-Hungarians, were an imperial power whose interests were in Europe as much as the 'Islamic' east. They were interested in gold and guns as much as godly activities (note, I do not doubt the faith of the Ottoman sultans; their status in the next world is not for me to judge at all). They played the same game as these other empires and ultimately lost (in the end all the others lost too in their own ways and some transformed themselves). It wasn't "foreign intereference" that cost Ottomans, but ultimately their own policies. Note, that according to some historical accounts, the latter-day caliphs may even have coluded with foreign powers. From the Turkish nationalists' point of view this was treacherous.
Myth #5: Democracy necessarily means voting in what we like (i.e. with no consideration for some higher principles, e.g. halal/haram) This idea is pushed heavily by Tahriris (it's part of their ideology). However, it is based on a nonsensical understanding of democractic forms of government. Democracies must adhere to the rule of law. They must adhere to bills of rights, charters, constitutions, international agreements and conventions.They simply can't make up laws off the cuff. Will a Muslim democracy neccesarily look like a Western democracy? No. Note, I am not saying that democratic governments are the only method of governance available to Muslims.
Laila Lalami (aka Moorish Girl) takes a detailed critical look at Ayan Hirsi Ali (or is Magan?) and Irshad Manji as well as their latest publications:
These days, being a Muslim woman means being saddled with what can only be referred to as the "burden of pity." The feelings of compassion that we Muslim women seem to inspire emanate from very distinct and radically opposed currents: religious extremists of our own faith, and evangelical and secular supporters of empire in the West.
"Regarding the term Judeo-Christian" by Lisa Ribben, which also gives us a list of sources for the earliest uses of the term; it appears it was used, originally, in a religious context and not a political one.
So what might be the timeline on the demise of radical Islam? Well, if radical Islam is indeed a function of the instability and inherent chaos of the process of development and globalisation of our modern world, a process which is not going to stop soon, then we are in for a protracted struggle. The Pentagon recently talked of "the long war" against terrorism. In that, for once, the planners of America's response to the threat from "al-Qaida", however you define it, were right. How long? As [Mary] Habeck, [Peter L.] Bergen, [Abdel Bari] Atwan and others make clear, Bin Laden and his followers are thinking in terms of centuries.