Sunday, July 31, 2005

Badshah Khan's Islamic Nonviolence

I feel incredibly inspired by the wisdom, vision and life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, better know as Badshah. As a Muslim I feel that this path is one completely in tune with the inner unity and love of Islam.
For those who are unfamiliar with this great Muslim figure, I suggest reading Eknath Easwaran's book, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam.
Badshah Khan was a Pathan who defied the British much like his contemporary Gandhi. He created the largest nonviolent "army" in the world, the Khudai Khitmatgars. They were Pathans who set to follow the example of the Prophet and his followers during their time in Mecca, by showing unswerving patience, love and restraint in the face of brutality and violence. Sadly, he was imprisoned for more than half his life, first under British rule in India, and later in Pakistan as the North-West frontier became a part of it during partition
This is a powerful, courageous figure who led a movement to bring education, peace and prosperity to his people. This is Islamic liberation theology much like that of great Christian figures such as Oscar Romero. Islam is full of many figures like this. I cannot claim to be able to share anything new about Badshah Khan, yet I would like to share a few quotes.
This is the oath that the Khudai Khitmatgars had to take:

"I am a Khudai Khitmagar; and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.
I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge.
I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty.
I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity.
I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend.
I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices.
I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil.
I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness.
I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work."

Here is a quote from Khan:

"I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Smile of Islam

Terrorists are hijacking Islam. Islam is the victim of terrorism. Islam is being killed, and Islam is being blamed.

In London, that became apparent when a young British girl and those riding with her were mercilessly killed whilst travelling to work. She was a young bank clerk, the pride of her migrant family. She was a devoutly religious girl, and yet her sweet smile and gentle demeanour revealed the face of a truly modern British woman.

She was British. She was young. She was smiling in her published photograph. She was on her way to work. She was contributing to her society, to her economy and to her nation. She died at the hands of terrorists. At memorial services across the UK, she was being remembered and prayed for.

Tony Blair and George W Bush and John Howard and others paid tribute to her. As did other western leaders. Even those otherwise hostile to her could not help but remember her bravery.

If anyone was a martyr in this terrible tragedy, it was people like her. She was the symbol of modernity, of civilisation. Her death inspires us to fight on, to address the scourge of terror.

When we speak out against terror and its ideology, we will remember her name. When we face and address the emotions of our confused and frightened non-Muslim neighbours, we will be doing her proud.

God tells us that we should not regard martyrs as dead. They are alive. God is providing for martyrs, even if we do not perceive it.

She is a martyr. Her name and what it represents is being martyred. But her name and what it represents is not dead. Indeed, it is alive, sustained by God in ways only people of wisdom will understand.

We must fight terror so that her death not be in vain. We must fight terror so that her parents’ tears are wiped dry and replaced with the joy of knowing their daughter is a martyr and will enter paradise insh’Allah.

Our theology teaches us that martyrdom is not an automatic ticket to paradise. We are taught that amongst the first people to be judged on the day of judgment will be a martyr. He will be brought before God and questioned on why he died.

“I died to serve you and to make your Name respected and your Greatness acknowledged”, the martyr will say.

“No you most certainly did not!”, will be the Divine response. “You died so that people would say how great you were, so that people would write songs and poems and eulogies devoted to your bravery. And they did this. You have been rewarded. Today, there is nothing for you but the Hellfire!”

This is what he, the martyr, will be told before being dragged to hell.

He. Not she.

She had no intentions of glory or fame. She just intended to go to work. She was one of millions of anonymous Britons leaving the safety and comfort of their homes for the uncertainty of economic activity.

Now, in death, she has attained fame and glory. And her name deserves to be remembered and mentioned again and again.

She is from our family. We are from her family. She may be British, but she is also from the family of Islam.

The family of Islam are a British family. They are as British as the Blair family. They are as British as Prince Nassim or Nasser Hussein or other establishment figures. They are as British as Tim Winter and Zaki Badawi. And as Cat Stevens.

She shares her surname with the adopted name of the Cat. She is Shahara. She is the daughter of Britain, the daughter of the West, the daughter of progress and civilisation. And how fitting that she be the daughter of Islam.

Because Islam is not the enemy of progress, of civilisation, or indeed of the West. When terrorists attack the West, they attack Islam. They maim and murder Islam.

And they murdered Shahara, a daughter of Islam.

We will not allow her death to be in vain. We must fight for the family of Islam, for the name of Islam, for the reality of Islam. We will continue our fight.

We will not frown at our neighbours when they question our loyalty. But like Shahara, we will smile in the face of death. We will face the hatred of Islamophobes and their terrorist allies with the smile Shahara left us with, a smile that millions across the world saw.

We see her smiling face and we learn that the murder of Islam inspires some people to smile and others to weep. When Islam is murdered, we weep. When Islam is murdered, her enemies smile and cheer and dance.

When Islam is murdered, conservative columnists and professional Islam-haters cheer and congratulate each other. They tell the world to fight and kill Islam just as Shahara Islam’s murderers killed her. For indeed, Islam-haters and terrorists are both out to kill Islam.

But Islam will not die. God will preserve Islam. That is God’s promise. Islam can only be martyred. Islam doesn’t die.

Yes, we will say it. The London bombings were about martyrdom. Islam was martyred. British values and culture and traditions were martyred. British peace and liberalism were martyred. These British values are steeped in Islam. And they will not die. We must not let them die.

Lest the argument be spoilt by lengthy repetition, I end with the words of Shahara’s brother-in-faith and in humanity. Her brother Yusuf, also from the family of Islam, sang these words years before he ever thought of joining the family of Islam. These words are a virtual second national anthem for the people of London. We will remember these words as we simultaneously mourn and rejoice the martyrdom the smiling Shahara …

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
Some day it’s going to come.

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
There rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
Come take me home again.

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
Something good has begun …

Now I’ve been crying lately,
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
Why can’t we live in bliss.

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
There rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
Come take me home again.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Loser Brother Top 10 (III) + 7 more

Earlier I had promised that I shall be working on some type of explantory piece on Loser Brotherss (LBs)...I haven't gotten around to it just yet. In the meantime I offer the following Top 10 + 7 list to provide you a fuller explanation of what qualities/attributes/criterion... compose a LB. This is in no means an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be.

If you match up with 3 or more points from this list or the past two (List 1, List 2) you may consider yourself an honorary Loser Brother...your membership card is in the mail. If you have suggestions/comments or your own LB tales please do share them in the section below or email me - I would love to hear from you.

  1. You’re fond of self-deprecation.
  2. You quote the movie Sideways:
    • "I'm so insignificant, I can't even kill myself"
    • "I am not much of anything, really"
    • "I'm a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper"
    • “Half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it"
  3. Though you are single you have a deep-freezer.
  4. You only eat zabiha meat.
  5. You have an excessive amount of extra bedding for the chance guest.
  6. You befriend individuals that are older than you are.
  7. Though in your 20s you gripe of your old age and exclaim “my life is over.”
  8. You’ve started putting money away for your own funeral.
  9. Sadness and humiliation are your two closest friends.
  10. You know the names of all the clubs in your locality. You’ve never been to one.
  11. At social gatherings you converse with “uncles.”
  12. You know what RSS stands for.
  13. You currently maintain a blog or have in the past.
  14. You still drink Nestle Quik.
  15. You’re searching for PakiPrincess786/ArabPrincess786 or perhaps PersianPrincess786.
  16. You are often asked when prayer times are.
  17. Growing up you wondered if you could be the Mahdi.

Thanks Google

In a recent Google search I learned that if you query "Loser Brother" the first page found is my Google profile and the next a link for Ihsan. I would like to thank the Academy, my parents, Ihsan, Ihsan readers, all the little people, and the Lord. ::sob:: Thank you ::sob::

In other news this post by me also merited attention by BadBlogs.

Ihsan Podcast #5

Part II of a talk by Hatem Bazian on the "new" COINTELPRO.

FBI infiltration and targeting of Muslims, Arabs, and South/South East Asian communities.

To listen/subscribe on Itunes click here

Or, also on, itunes, click on "Advanced" and "Subscribe to Podcast"

copy/paste this url:


and you'll be subscribed to the Ihsan podcast (A Muslim Podcast!)

Click here for web streaming... and past episodes

Friday, July 29, 2005

Lightening and Thunder

O Allah,
these are two of Your signs
and these are two of Your helpers.
They rush to obey You
with beneficial mercy
or injurious vengeance,
so rain not down upon us from them
the evil rain
and clothe us not through them
in the garment of affliction!

O Allah,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
send down upon us the benefit of these clouds
and their blessing,
turn away from us their harm and their injury,
strike us not through them with blight,
and loose not upon our livelihoods any bane!

(Sahifa al-Kamilah -
Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

An Open Letter To Sheik Daniel Pipes

Dear Sheik Daniel.

I am writing this letter to you in anticipation that you will one day decide to label me an Islamic terrorist.

It seems to me that anyone who tries to articulate some sort of viewpoint resembling Islam is automatically tarnished by you. I realise you hate me, and you want to inspire hate in others in the hope that they will kill me.

Am I being hysterical? Not really.

After all, you encouraged France and other countries with hostages in Iraq to lynch their Muslim communities. Indeed, you suggested this is an excellent way to discourage terrorism.

Thankfully, the family of Douglas Wood and the Australian Government did not follow your advice. The Government here actively sought involvement from Muslim Australians, including a controversial Imam. Mr Wood was freed. Your theory was proven wrong.

So why do I call you Sheik Daniel? Perhaps it is because you are so similar in many ways to The al-Qaida Network (TQN). And why do I say this?

TQN is committed to the establishment and maintenance of an Islamic state. They are not concerned about how this is established, whose toes they tread on and how many religious rules they flout. Theirs is a political agenda.

You, Sheik Daniel, are committed to the preservation of the Jewish state. And no, not a multicultural moderate Israel wishing piece with its neighbours.

You, Sheik Daniel, support the Israeli version of al-Qaida. You support the maintenance of Jewish settlements in Gaza. You have criticised Ariel Sharon for seeking to close down these settlement.

You are probably part of the team of extremists who took part in the “pulsa denura” ceremony on July 21 2005. Your death curse is so similar to the fatwas of al-Qaida and others calling upon certain Muslim leaders to be cursed and killed.

Now I understand you are probably already tracking what I have written and said in various places. That’s OK. I expect you to place a “pulsa denura on me in your website.

And I look forward to your curse. Because being cursed by anti-Semites like yourself is indeed a blessing. For indeed God smiles when the devil is angry.

If you were to curse me on your website, you will place me with a long list of moderate luminaries such as Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Khaled Abou el-Fadl. I would love to be in the company of devout Christians like the late Edward Said.

And so, Sheik Daniel, I have a request. Please. Consider issuing a “pulsa denura” on me. Go on. It will add so much to my credibility. Please consider my request. I will be ever-so grateful!

Yours faithfully,

© I Yusuf, 2005

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Laws, bombs and a free society

I thoroughly recommend a short but erudite comment (link below) considering the legal issues surrounding the recent shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by police, as well as some aspects of the new the proposed UK anti-terror legislation, by John Gardner, Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, and occasional Visiting Professor at Yale Law School. Like John, I call upon all like-spined people to be very worried by what Tony Blair is proposing. Let's face it, even Cherie has her reservations.

Comment by John Gardner

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Continued Education...

A school of hard knocks if you will...


Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click www.bendib.com

Monday, July 25, 2005

Islam and Extremism in the UK

A whole bunch of interesting reports and interviews with the radical/extremist elements in British society.

This interview with Dr. Imran Waheed from Hizb ut-Tahrir is incredibly entertaining. Tib Sebastian, host of HARDtalk, puts American jounralists to shame.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Manji - Desperately Seeking Fatwa

Irshad Manji wants a fatwa. She has been screaming out for Muslims to threaten her with death in the same way that many did to Salman Rushdie. But the fact is that she won’t get one. And perhaps for no other reason than that she is no Salman Rushdie when it comes to insightful writing.

Manji claims in her latest article in the Australian (‘Sins of scripture’ in the Koran, too, 25 June 2005) that Muslims must be honest enough to admit that the Qur’an teaches people to hate and kill. She says that Christians and Jews have acknowledged the same thing with the Bible. She asks why no Muslim writer has done so with the Qur’an.

When I read Manji making such suspect claims, I wonder which planet she is living on. She effectively claims that in over 1,400 years of theological history, no Muslim scholar has ever questioned the literal meanings of the Qur’anic text.

This is simply incorrect. Any expert on Islamic history will confirm this. Most Muslims will confirm this. Which explains why most Muslims tend to ignore Manji’s work.

Manji has perhaps never heard of the Ikhwan as-Safa (the Brethren of Purity) who were a collection of Ismaili Shia scholars living outside Basra and who spent much of their time debating the meaning of basic Qur’anic concepts.

Perhaps she also has not read the tens of thousands of classical and modern commentaries on the Qur’an from all Islamic schools of thought addressing the meanings of the verses. Perhaps that is because the mainstream consensus on the meaning of these verses does not suit her purpose.

On the surface, Manji has a point. The literal words of the scriptures can be used to justify all sorts of crimes. Both the Bible and the Qur’an contain verses which have been used to justify violence, genocide and other excesses.

But Manji is clearly no expert on religion or terrorism. If she had been an expert, she would have understood that scriptures need to be interpreted. And that scriptural exegesis has its rules and principles.

An anti-Zionist Jewish writer once described the Zionism as treating God like a “real estate agent for the Jewish people”. Margaret Marcus (who adopted the Muslim faith and changed her name to Maryam Jameela) claimed Zionists had gone against thousands of years of consensus in the interpretation of Old Testament texts which insisted (she claims) that only the Messiah can lead the Jewish people back to the Promised Land.

Was Marcus correct? Who knows.

The other day, I was told by some Anglican friends of mine that the Archbishop of Sydney gave a sermon in St Andrews Cathedral claiming that the genealogy of Christ included prostitutes, adulterers and mass-murderers. What spin can be put on this? Could it be said that Christ taught these things?

And when Christ asked his disciples to gather their swords and prepare for war, was he telling them to get ready to commit acts which Roman authorities would view as terrorism?

Does Hinduism teach war? Major Hindu texts such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata give vivid descriptions of battles between gods and demons and men and each other.

Buddhism is a peaceful religion. But one can suggest that Buddhism also produced the most genocidal army in human history. The Mongols slaughtered more people and destroyed more cities than perhaps even the Nazis.

In the current climate, it is crucial for us to explore the ideological roots of terrorist violence. That requires an honest appraisal of what scriptures and religions actually teach. Specialist expertise is a must if one is to properly walk this ideological field of landmines. Manji doesn’t have that expertise. If she is not careful, she might say something that will blow up in her face.

Then again, perhaps that is something she really wants to happen. After all, any publicity is good publicity.

(The author is a Sydney lawyer and columnist for the Adelaide-based Australian Islamic Review.)

© Irfan Yusuf, 2005

Saturday, July 23, 2005

No Terror Training Camp

When I was 16 years old, I attended my first national Muslim youth camp at Harrietville in Victoria. The camp was organised by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), the peak Muslim representative body of Australia.

At this camp, I met young Muslims from across Australia. They were from all different parts of the world. I learnt that you could have blonde hair and blue eyes and still be Muslim. I met Muslims from Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia.

Our teacher was a Melbourne Imam named Sheik Fehmi. He spoke fluent English, and had read widely. He was used to dealing with young people, and had attended at least 15 previous camps.

Sheik Fehmi was often asked questions about jihad. In those days, some young Muslims were keen to join the Afghan resistance effort which was sponsored by the Reagan Administration with the support of the Australian government.

His answers were always the same. He would quote from 2 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings of God be upon him).

One young man approached the Prophet wanting permission to fight in the Muslim army to defend the Prophet’s city. The Prophet asked the boy 2 questions. “Do you have elderly parents who need you to look after them? Do you have your parent’s permission?”

The boy replied that he had elderly parents who needed him. The Prophet then said: “Look after them. That will be your jihad.”

Sheik Fehmi also frequently told us of a scene on the Day of Judgment painted by the Prophet. On that day, one of the first persons to be brought for judgment would be a martyr, someone who had fought and died for God. The martyr would be dragged into hell. Why? Because he fought to be a hero and so that people would glorify him.

So there you have it. This is what mainstream Muslim Australians are taught. That martyrdom is no one-way ticket to paradise. And that you cannot go to fight if you have elderly parents. And that you need parents’ permission before fighting.

Which parent in their right mind would allow their son or daughter to blow themselves up and kill others in the process? Which parent would be happy to see their child commit suicide?

Generally, it is people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses who commit suicide. People who have not received the right medical attention. Suicide is one of the greatest sins, not just in Islam but in just about every religion on earth.

Sadly, suicide cults exist in every faith. Christianity has had its fair share, including the notorious Rev Jim Jones of Guyana. The Tamil Tigers were masters of suicide bombing, sometimes justifying it using Hindu texts. And such cults now exist among Muslims.

No religion teaches kids to kill themselves. Only fringe extremists teach this. And its results are tragic. The people of London saw this on 7 July. The people of Baghdad see it almost everyday.

And I pray to God that the people of Sydney and Melbourne and Canberra and Christchurch and Dunedin and every inch of Australia and New Zealand never see this scourge appear on their shores.

Some months back, I read a Palestinian father’s plea to the non-religious Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. He asked the leaders of the brigade why his son had to die. “Why don’t you ever send you’re your children to die? Why do your children live in luxury while I will never get to enjoy seeing my grandchildren?”

One Sydney Islamic bookshop owner recently told me that his biggest seller was a book on baby names. Muslim Australians are more interested in finding names for their new-borns. They are more interested in bringing life to this earth. But terrorists want young Muslims to kill themselves and others.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Unthinking the roots of terrorism

Muslims have become adept at claiming terrorists to be 'outside of Islam'. Muslim leaders even convinced one police chief in the UK of this truth, sufficient for him to denounce a journalist who foolishly associated the terms 'Islamic' and 'terrorist'. And why not? Most of the people who murder innocent human beings and claim Islam as their justification can surely be dismissed as being un-Islamic for having crossed the boundaries of normative theology and ethics. But the uncomfortable truth is, most were born or nurtured inside Muslim communities. So let's stop pretending the recent spate of murderous violence in London has nothing to do with us. There may be wider political and social imperatives which draws Muslims into criminal activities, and the religious justification for such acts are undoubtedly profane, but the starting point - and from the perspective of the terrorist, the endpoint - was in every instance Islam.

This is not to suggest, as the Islamophobes on The Telegraph and Spectator claim, that an essentialised Islam is somehow inherently barbaric or violent. These ill informed assaults on an imagined, monolithic 'other' are reformulations of old, racist bigotries, and they share an ignorance of Islam and a hatred of most Muslims not unlike those perpetuated by fascist groups such as the British National Party. Rather, the problem lies not with the ummah, nor with its intellectual body, the ulema, but at the interstice where celebrity figures within the ulema and the Muslim petit-intelligentsia meet.

Here, at the point of interpretation and representation, there is a resolute failure of intellectual engagement which is encapsulated in Arkoun's concept of "unthought". Arkoun's key thesis contrasts the intellectual perspective of reactionary Salafi Islam, a theology which has percolated deep into the Muslim consciousness over the past 30 years, with the understanding of Islam which comes from confronting contemporary knowledge systems, which for Arkoun means post-war social theory. These knowledge systems view Islam as only one attempt, among many others, to emancipate human beings from the natural limitations of their biological, historical and linguistic conditions. Arkoun thus differentiates between self-justifying ideological religious discourses from ones that take onboard contemporary understandings of society, history and language.

Applying Arkoun's thesis to the discourse of the Muslim petit-intelligentsia, the most notable and widely represented ideologue of Islam is probably Harun Yahya. I was saddened, and indeed angered, to read a claim in the Notes and Queries of Q-News (June 2005, UK Edition) that Harun Yahya had, in the eyes of most 'literate Muslims', effectively defeated the arguments of Darwin. There was a debate? Most of the arguments between Creationists and Evolutionary Scientists have, as far as I am aware, taken place in the USA, and despite attempts to reconfabulate creationism into 'intelligent design', the vast and overwhelming majority of scientists continue to stand rock solid firm by the evolutionary sciences.

The truth is, Harun Yahya is not a scientist, but a polemicist who appeals to a particular interpretation of revelation, conflating evolutionary science with materialism. His writings are often imbued with a lowbrow anti-Westernism, greased with considerable rhetorical skill onto a series of specious arguments borrowed almost entirely from the American Christian (Looney) right. How, then is it possible that so many Muslims swallow Yahya's dreadful, one-sided polemic so unthinkingly?

One reason may be that, instead of seeing Islam as a path that demands rigorous intellectual engagement, the petit-intelligentsia - bowed by a sense of cultural inferiority to an imagined 'West' - seek to legitimise a set of ideas and thinkers as crucial to Muslim identity. In becoming encultured within Islam, these ideas and thinkers are then excluded from the kind of critique which ideas outside of Islamic culture can be subjected to. Hence, the intelligentsia may offer pointed and insightful comments on issues of politics, society and a whole range of 'safe' issues where the boundaries of unthought have been pushed back in the name of Muslim interest. But Harun Yahya, a base polemicist, becomes canonical because he articulately encapsulates this notion of Islam as a culturally and intellectually distinct phenomenon.

The corpus of ideologues co-opted by the Muslim petit-intelligentsia to represent Islam is, I suspect, considerable fluid. Harun Yahya is perhaps an exemplar, but there are other similarly unconfronted scholars and intellectuals who are more or less absorbed into the new cultural melange of contemporary Muslim identity. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one such scholar, whose ossifying codification of moderate, Shariah-based behaviours ignores the challenge of more 'difficult' thinkers such as Khaled Abou El Fadl, who proclaims the near-death of a dynamic fiqh that would once have seen Qaradawi not as a 'star', but as a part of a constellation of contesting and contested scholar-thinkers. Akbar Ahmad is another. Though rejected by some ideologues as being 'too Western', his Postmodernism and Islam is in many ways steeped in the same a priori assumptions as Yahya, that Islam and elements of post-war European thought are in some sense intrinsically antithetical.

The petit-intelligentsia appeal, of course, to postmodern ideas that suits their ideological purpose. The most convincing - intrinsic to Yahya and Akbar - is the notion that all knowledge systems are value-laden, and hence 'Western' and 'Islamic' knowledge systems can be differentiated by their fundamental values - one based on the Qur'an, the other on values which emerged during the European enlightenment. Thinkers such as Tariq Ramadan have emerged to reassure Muslims in Europe that some of these enlightenment values are reconcilable with Islam, sufficient for Muslims to live comfortably as law-abiding citizens in European nations.

The question remains, of course, as to why contemporary European thought is so antithetical to the Islamic endeavour, whereas Greek and Persian philosophy was to a great extent viewed quite differently by the intellectual-scholars of classical Islam. The answer, of course, is that the latter were adopted by Muslims in a position of political power over their intellectual challengers.

A senior police officer in the UK recently described Muslims as being 'in denial' when it comes to terrorism. But there is a deeper denial of the intellectual torpor within the ummah, one which I would suggest is bound up closely with an intellectual culture increasingly founded on victimhood. It's time thinking Muslims stepped beyond this false culture and found the vim to face the unthinkable. The debased theologies of terrorists are only possible because we share with them a lack of intellectual courage.

Putting the Spotlight on Friedman

Putting the Spotlight on Friedman
By Mohamed A. Faraj
July22, 2005

In today’s New York Times article “Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide” (July 22, 2005), Thomas L Friedman simply continues on his long path of doing what he does best, i.e. acting as self-declared and passionate mouthpiece of the U.S. government. It is nothing new in the recent history of mainstream news reporting, with journalists and reporters competing with each other to score bonus points with the powers-that-be. It seems to be the great journalistic fad of our times that has journalists in bed with politicians and military authorities and academics all in one. In this arena, Friedman simply leads the way by leaps and bounds.

Take for example his recent article on the aftermath of the second wave of London bombings. His concern is that in addition to fighting the “war on terror” on the military, political, and economic playing fields, a thorough effort has to be made to deal with them on ideological grounds as well. The same line of thinking occupied the Cold War debate, where the argument was made that communism had to be discredited ideologically and the benefits of capitalism demonstrated intellectually in order to win over the hearts and minds of poor peoples throughout the Third World. Thus Friedman argues that a “war of ideas” must be vigilantly fought against the type of radical Islamist thought that promotes and feeds off hate and ignorance. His suggestion reads as follows: “We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.”[1]

As an example of this problem of hatemongering, Friedman uses the bookstore (called “Iqra Learning Center”) frequented by some of the London bombers. To be more specific, Friedman quotes the Wall Street Journal to reveal how this bookstore happened to be “the sole distributor of Islamgames, a U.S.-based company that makes video games. The video games feature apocalyptic battles between defenders of Islam and opponents. One game, Ummah Defense I, has the world 'finally united under the Banner of Islam' in 2114, until a revolt by disbelievers. The player's goal is to seek out and destroy the disbelievers.”[2] Now this is where most mainstream academics and journalists in the West get all tangled up and a bit hazy. This is precisely where they began to lose their consistency and fall into that shady world of hypocrisy and double standards. For unless Friedman himself is childless and therefore hasn’t ventured much into the world of video games, one cannot understand exactly how he overlooks the virulent video game culture in the West that promotes and incites hatred against Arabs and/or Muslims.

“For years, American combat video games have featured Arabs
as enemies, encouraging gamers to kill anonymous Middle Easterners with barely a
second thought. China is the enemy in a rash of recent games, prompting the
Chinese government to ban some of them. Even the United States military is
getting into the act, using games to recruit soldiers.”[3]

This, too, is nothing particularly new. Any twelve-year old with an X-Box or PS2 or computer with a competent video card and a fast processor must have been exposed to the likes of these games at some point or other. The shooting and killing of rag-headed Afghans or Iraqis (especially after the first Gulf War) in video games ideally should fall under the umbrella of “inciting violence against others”. According to David Leonard of Washington State University, who critically analyzes video games as part of “an important pedagogical project of U.S. war practices”; “Virtual war games elicit support for the War on Terror and United States imperialism, providing space where Americans are able to play through their anxiety, anger, and racialized hatred.”[4] By pointing this out, we do not contend that two wrongs make a right, nor is this a diversionary tactic used to deflect attention away from the very real and serious problems in the Muslim world. Yet it is worth noting that Friedman chooses to simply ignore the flip side of the coin, as all well-trained hypocrites are apt to do. Inciting hatred only bears value when it is “them” inciting hatred against “us”. Their video games and literature must thus be analyzed thoroughly, “exposed” and “spotlighted”, according to Friedman, so that they know that the world is listening to and watching them vigilantly. In doing so, we may conveniently ignore our own forms of inciting hatred and our own crimes. We have the magnifying glass directed towards those “others” and stubbornly refuse to use it against ourselves, presumably out of fear of what this would reveal, though this thought is rarely ever spoken.

Friedman is most probably the leading liberal U.S. mouthpiece writing in arguably the world’s most influential and far-reaching newspaper. It is therefore no exaggeration to state that his views and ideas are to be taken seriously, especially as he gives advice to the powers-that-be. Thus when someone like Thomas L. Friedman suggests that “excuse-makers” for terrorism “are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed”, it is safe to assume that such advice will seriously be taken into consideration. It is nothing less than advice to stifle and muffle dissent, to purge by exposition those who disagree with the views of Friedman and his official buddies. According to this logic, there is absolutely no correlation between worldwide grievances and terrorism. Actions that happen in one part of the world have no effect on what may happen some other place across the globe. There is no cause and effect relationship here, only the fluke and random acts committed by crazed fanatics. This type of deductive reasoning is quite convenient because it consciously refuses to engage the question of what conditions and circumstances breed criminality and/or terrorism.

Friedman maintains that terrorists do what they do because they are terrorists, clear and simple. He quotes Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen as saying that “These terrorists are what they do", then slyly adds “And what they do is murder”. As if it takes a genius to figure that one out. Terrorists by nature commit terrorist acts, which by definition include murder. In any case, the logic is quite reductive. This type of reasoning is akin to the type of grade-school clichés that claim that “You Are What You Eat”. It bears no substance or clearly thought-out argument. Why is a terrorist a terrorist? What makes people engage in terrorist acts? Is it simply ideological leanings? Are there absolutely no other legitimate motives that can be included within the equation of terrorism? These clichés simply reaffirm standard and conventional thinking because they are convenient, uncomplicated, and because everyone seems to regurgitate them ceaselessly so that in the end they become self-evident truths.

To argue that terrorists are criminals and mass-murderers who deserve to be brought to justice, but at the same time to argue that perhaps some of their motivations do come from legitimate grievances, is taboo and unacceptable. Friedman, like many of his colleagues, has trouble making the distinction between “justifying” terrorism and “explaining” it. The same diligence that social scientists apply to problems such as crime and poverty, for example, and the links and correlations between the two, would not apply when it comes to terrorism. Those who engage in terrorism do so because they are inherently evil and because it’s in their nature to do so, according to the likes of Friedman. No other rationale is acceptable or tolerated, and if it is considered at all it is lumped under some derogatory category such as “excuse-making” or “justifying terrorism”. Again, the great guru of the liberal mainstream media has thereby effectively marginalized and quarantined dissent by portraying those who try to explain the motivations or reasons of terrorism (so as to better deal with it) as not much better than the terrorists themselves. Presumably, by the standards set out by Thomas L. Friedman, the Mayor of London himself, among other respectable figures, would also fit nicely into this subhuman camp, being “just one notch less despicable than the terrorists” themselves.[5]


[1] Thomas L. Friedman, “Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide”, The New York Times Op-Ed, July 22, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/22/opinion/22friedman.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] Nick Lewis, “How the Seductive Power of Video Games is Being Harnessed to Push Deadly Agendas”, Calgary Herald, July 9, 2005. http://www.canada.com/technology/story.html?id=ffffc56d-636c-40b0-8f9d-5edc40967b03
[4] David Leonard, “Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of peace”, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, Volume 4, Issue 4 (November 2004). http://www.utpjournals.com/jour.ihtml?lp=simile/issue16/leonardfulltext.html
[5] Andrew Sparrow, “Western policies are to blame, says Livingstone”, The Daily Telegraph, June 20, 2005. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/20/nblame120.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/07/20/ixnewstop.html

Friday, July 22, 2005


Al Fatiha — 24,865 Times

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Racial Tension in the American Umma

by Kelly Crosby

I was talking with my father one day and we get into this habit of listing all of the isues of the New Orleans Muslim community. Alhamdulillah, I am happy that I have not experienced the direct brunt of racism, sexism or any other unIslamic behavior...yet. But when I talk to some of my friends and what they have experienced, it's makes me nervous. But one of his comments stayed with me long after we finished talking. He said, "there is no way for African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims to come together on anything in this community until we all address the problem of Muslim-owned cornerstores."

We all know about the cornerstores. I have a Palestinian friend who taught me some of the deen; his family owns such a store. It began to bother him so much that he left it and got another job. Or in his words, "I want to deal in business that's halal." These cornerstores dot the neighborhoods of poor Black people who don't have the transportation to get to the larger supermarkets. A lot of them are on government assistance so one stop to the local store takes care of everything. I wouldn't have any problems with these stores if they didn't carry certain items--namely, pork, alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets. For me it's mostly the alcohol but that other stuff is just as haram.

Many of these stores in New Orleans are located by housing projects where many people believe that they will live and die in the ghetto. Masha'Allah, that's not always the case as I have family members raised in the "projects" and they made it out of there. But many already believe that there is no hope for a better future.

Unfortunately some turn to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Some prefer to waste their money by buying lottery scratchouts. And who is the person behind the counter helping his fellow brother in humanity, this beautiful child of Bani Adam, destroy himself? It's the devout Muslim who would never drink, smoke (well, SOME of us don't) or spend our hard earned money on the lottery. This is horrible, hypocritical dawah. In fact, this is the 2nd worst kind of dawah. The 1st is the "Muslim" man who sleeps around, dumps his girlfriends (sometimes inpregnating them and asking for an abortion, eeeewww!) all the while thinking he's exempt from God's judgement just because he is a Muslim.

The subject came up because I was talking a friend who works at an Islamic school. She's the only African-American Muslim teacher amongst the Palestinian teachers and student body. So, she's basically got the burden of teaching our umma's diversity on her shoulders. She told me that sometimes, she'll hear the kids say, "Black people are dirty. They all do drugs. They're all crackheads and drugdealers." Naturally she chimes in, "Wait, I'm Black." But these young, impressionable children say, "But you're a Muslim. You're different." You see where I am going.

Where are these children getting their perceptions of Black people from and why hasn't this been addressed? They are getting their stereotypes from their parents, who just happen to own these funky stores in the poor neighborhoods. What I don't understand is how can you talk about "urban blight" when you sell the very things causing the social decay and then run right back to the suburbs where everything is clean, safe, nice, and uh...ya know. And don't think Black people have not taken notice.

I have been confronted by them, asking, why are Muslims so pious when it's their own kind but treat Blacks in such a disrespectful way? And you know what? There really isn't any answer that's suitable. This is how people start to believe that Islam, of all religions, is anti-Black. (Let's not forget the idiotic Muslim-on-Muslim slaughter in Sudan).

So what's up? When these cornerstore-owners look at their customers, why don't they see Bilal ibn Rabah (radiallahu anhu) or Nana Asma'u?

What about Malcolm X? Mohammad Ali? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Why go on about Muslim diversity, brag on its luminous Black figures and then wax on about how those n**gers are tearin' up the neighborhood?

Why live in fear that you may get robbed but the thief blew his money on lottery tickets that you sold him?

Or here's a real funny one. Why go on about how Black people are this and that when your sons and daughters are listening to rap, wearing FUBU, Sean John or any other hip-hop label, speaking slang, using the n-word as a term of affection for their friends and might have Black boy/girlfriends on the side?

Yeah, I went there. Or maybe it's like the comedian D.L Hugley said, "Everybody wants to be Black 'til the cops come."

Now before I move on, don't think I am laying this all on the Muslim storeowners. If you are an American adult, 21 years or older, you have the option of buying alcohol. No one is holding a gun to their head to make them buy it. You can opt for gum instead of cigarettes, beer for soda, turkey instead of pork. Remember, Blacks and Latinos are heavily targeted by liquor and cigarette companies. They intentionally put more billboards in Black neighborhoods and in Black publications (which is something those publications need to think about) promoting these things.

The only reason why I started writing this post is because of Umm Zee's hardships with Islamic schools and then I went off into this tangent as usual. African-American Muslims represent at least 33% of the Muslims in America. Maybe more. How do you think it makes us feel when we see immigrant Muslims, some we know from the masjid, selling poison to our people. Yeah, I said, "our people," not just Black people but humanity. Muslims are supposed to help cure social and cultural diseases, not spread them.

Wouldn't you be horrified if you found your daughter smoking or your son drunk out of his mind? How do you think honest, hardworking, but poor Black people feel when they come home and see the same thing? Just as all Muslims aren't terrorists, not all Black people are crooks, murderers, rapists, welfare mothers and drug dealers. You hate it when people call you "al-Qeada" or "bin Laden." Well we hate the word n**ger and I don't care how many rappers use the word, I still hate it! I would hate to be called a n**ger, just as much as you hate to be called sand n**ger.

See the connection. See how other racists view us? N**ger. Sand N**ger. In their eyes, Blacks, South Asians, Arabs, and Latinoes, are all dirty brown people. They didn't even bother to come with a new racial slur, they just added a word to an older one that still hurts to this day.

Now you know me, I'm not going to end this post on a sad note. Many Muslims from all racial backgrounds are seeing this glaring problem and are doing something about it.

Iman Central is one of those groups.

Here is an article about this group standing in solidarity with African-Americans trying to prevent yet another liquor store from opening in the community.


It's a long link so get highlight the thing then.....ya know what to do.

Click here to read Racial Tensions part 2

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Theories on Islamic books you wouldn't read about

I HAVE a close friend who attended a Canberra Anglican school for 6 years. She is spiritually ecumenical with a keen interest in Hindu and Christian mysticism. Over the years, I have given her a number of spiritual books. Her favourite is a collection of Rumi poems entitled “Hidden Music”.

I have another close friend working medical research. She also has a superb sense of humour. I recently gave her 2 books on tib an-nabawi (classical medicine as taught by Prophet Muhammad) and a DVD of three American Muslim comics entitled “Allah made me funny!”.

Before writing this piece, I spoke to the owner of the Andalus Islamic Bookstore in Sydney (from where I purchased some of these items). I asked him what was his biggest seller. “We just can’t order enough of those books on baby names”, he said.

The biggest selling book from one of the most popular Australian Islamic bookstores is one used by parents to choose a name for their new-born child. A powerful metaphor for a religious community at the heart of mainstream Australia, and a far cry from some books sold at fringe salafist bookshops which seem to encourage young people to take their own lives and those of others.

Andalus also supplies the needs of members of Canberra’s educated and progressive Muslim community. The Canberra Islamic Centre hopes to establish Australia’s largest Islamic library. Already, it has collected an impressive array of rare books and manuscripts in a number of languages. It also sells books as part of its fundraising activities. Many of these books are sourced from the Amazon.com website.

Tabloid journalists and high rating Sydney morning shock jocks (the ones in Canberra are lucky to reach double figure ratings) may harp on about hate-filled books. A few days back I spent 45 minutes listening to a reporter from Channel 7’s Today Tonight show trying to convince me to name names of salafist book distributors. The way she was speaking, it seemed clear to me that she had never visited a single Muslim bookshop in Sydney.

The reality among mainstream Muslim Australians is quite contrary to sensationalist reports. No doubt there are bookstores selling these materials. But they are a small minority. And they have plenty of hate-filled stock as the more popular titles sell out much more quickly. It’s obvious books preaching fanaticism are just not selling.

Unlike other English-speaking countries (such as the United States, Canada and UK), Australia does not have a large Islamic publishing industry. When Fairfax journalist Nadia Jamal wanted to publish her account of growing up Muslim in Australia, she had little choice but to approach a mainstream Australian publisher.

Indeed, some of the best books on Islamic religion and culture only sell at mainstream bookstores. The popular US Muslim writer Yahya Emerick’s book entitled The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Islam is available at Belconnen Dymocks, as are books by New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Mainstream bookstores also sell popular titles on Islam by respected non-Muslim authors such as Karen Armstrong and John Esposito.

On the other hand, there are also books which talk about war and jihad. The Daily Telegraph recently made an issue of one bookshop in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn selling a book entitled “The Quranic Concept of War”. What the Telegraph didn’t report was that the book was a treatise on the historical rules of war under classical Islamic jurisprudence, not a modern terror manual. Further, the bookshop was managed by a small harmless sufi organisation, most of whose books are in Turkish.

Books about jihad are not necessarily offensive. Some journalists continue to harbour the misapprehension that jihad is the Islamic equivalent for medieval Christian “holy war”. But for mainstream Muslims, jihad typically refers to a spiritual struggle against one’s evil inclinations. In this respect, most sufi books are little more than manuals on spiritual jihad.

With followers of fringe ideological off-shoots of Islam responsible for most recent terrorist acts (including the recent spate in London and Baghdad), authorities are understandably concerned about literature being sold in religious bookshops. But this is no reason to believe that 400,000 Muslim Australians are busy reading terror manuals and planning suicide bombing attacks. Security and law enforcement agencies need to be alert. But alarmist sentiments should be left to immature morning shock jocks desperate for ratings.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer who has advised peak Muslim organisations and independent schools. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ihsan podcast #4: Lodi and Liverpool

Episode #4 of the Ihsan Podcast features a KPFA interview on the FBI harassment of a Pakistani Muslim community in Lodi, California - and - a report on a masjid burning in Liverpool, England.

To listen/subscribe on Itunes click here

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copy/paste this url:


and you'll be subscribed to the Ihsan podcast (A Muslim Podcast!)

click here for past episodes of the ihsan podcast

And click here to read Lodi Revealed by Mini Khalon.

Bombs in the UK, the shock and fear of my relatives living in London and my recent trip to Lodi, CA jostle with each other in my mind. Action, Reaction, Reality.

On June 8th 2005 the media received a copy of an affidavit from the FBI accusing 2 men they had picked up in Lodi, California, of terrorism. As more men (including 2 imams) were arrested in Lodi, the FBI filed their affidavits with the court. These affidavits did not mention terrorism, but were changed to accuse the men of lying to the FBI. By then, the truth was too late, the media blitz had occurred, "terror", "mosque", “Al Qaeda”, muslim-sounding names – and Lodi - had been conflated.

Remember the 80, but don't forget the 8,000!

Whoever takes the life of one human unjustly, it will be treated as if he has taken the lives of all humans whoever walked this earth.

We find this message in the Qur’an and in the Bible. Similar messages can be found in the scriptures of other religious traditions. Human life is always sacred. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands and take revenge on some perceived injustice by killing innocents.

Perhaps the worst excesses in murder and genocide in human history were carried out by the Mongols. I mention them because they were my ancestors. The Mongols swept across China, forcing the king of China to build a huge wall whose trail to this day can be picked up by satellites in space.

The Mongols then smashed down the doors of Baghdad and other cities. They plundered, raped, murdered and burnt wherever they went. No one was safe. We read reports of Mongol troops grabbing babies by the feet and smashing their heads against the walls of Baghdad. All in the presence of their mothers, who were typically raped and then murdered.

Baghdad back then was what London is today. The Mongol attack on Baghdad involved terrorising the heart of civilisation. Baghdad was a place where scholars and dissidents, students and artists would all meet under the protection of the Caliph. The Tariq Ali’s and Salman Rushdie’s and Abdul Majid Khoei’s of that time found security and sanctity in Baghdad. At least until the hordes arrived.

Apart from Hitler’s treatment of European Jewry, it is hard to find a modern equivalent of the Mongol massacre. The closest would perhaps be the war in Bosnia.

Human life is all sacred. We all have the same coloured blood. Among the victims of the London bombing was a young English Muslim girl named Shahara Islam. Her surname is a powerful metaphor in this conflict. If anyone needed proof that Islamic civilisation is much a victim as any other, it could be found in her name. Islam is a victim. Islam is innocent.

London had some 80 Shahara Islam’s die in the bombing. And hardly 10 years before, another place in the heart of Europe saw 8,000 Shahara Islam’s brutally murdered. Yet sadly little coverage was given to this anniversary.

In case anyone still remembers, the name of this town was Srebrenica. In July 1995, some 8,000 men and boys were massacred in this town. Their crime was that they supported a multi-ethnic multi-religious state. The inhabitants of this town were largely Muslim. The defenders of the town were a Bosnian army unit consisting of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The invading army were Serb ethnic chauvinists.

The UN peacekeepers sat back and watched the massacre take place. The world watched. The Bosnian army, hampered by a UN-imposed arms embargo, were powerless to do anything. The ethnic chauvinists won the battle. Humanity lost the war.

80 Britons died in London. 8,000 Bosnians died in Srebrenica. 6,000,000 Jews died in the Second World War. No one knows how many died at the hands of the Mongols. The numbers just keep getting worse. Humanity keeps losing the war.

So what is the answer? Civilisational war? Seeking justice for past crimes? There will always be Christians who never forgive Jews, Jews who never forgive Christians, Hindus who never forgive Muslims, Muslims who never forgive Sikhs.

And a God who will be happy to forgive the lot of them if they just stopped fighting and tried to get along!

You cannot fight terror with terror. Mongols terrorised the world. But one day a sufi Muslim introduced Islam to a Mongol warrior. Within a month, the vast Mongol horde had been adopted by the most civilised nation of the day. Centuries later, they arrived in India and left us with such wonders as the Taj Mahal.

If there is one thing all faiths teach, it is that you can never write off anyone. The ones society damns are often the most blessed. Christ spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes. Muhammad’s closest followers were slaves and the homeless. Religion teaches love. Terrorists teach hate. Terrorism knows no religion.

Whether it be 80 or 8,000 or 6 million. Human life is human life. As one holocaust survivor said, we should not focus on numbers. Rather, we should look at it as one life lost, then another, then another, then …


O Most Merciful of the merciful!

In the Name of Allah, the All-merciful,
the All-compassionate

I ask from You love for You,

love for those who love You,

love for every work which will join me to Your nearness,

and that You make Yourself more beloved to me

than anything other than You

and make

my love for You

lead to Your good pleasure,

and my yearning for You

protect against disobeying You!

Oblige me by allowing me to gaze upon You,

gaze upon me with the eye of affection and tenderness,

turn not Your face away from me,

and make me one of the people of happiness with You

and a favoured position!

O Responder,

O Most Merciful of the merciful!

(Sahifa al-Kamilah -
Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Some lives are a bit cheaper than others....

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click www.bendib.com

Welcome to Shox & Friends

(This mock media interview will take a number of parts and will include questions from hosts of a fictitious show "Shox & Friends". There will also be nasty audience calls. Readers are encourage to comment on the content and tone of the answers ...)

HOST: Welcome back to Shox & Friends. I’m Daniel Dumbspleen.

HOSTESS: And I’m Donna Dumblonde.

HOST: Today we are talking to Irfan Yusuf. Irfan is a lawyer from Sydney, and he joins us from our Sydney studios. Irfan, welcome to the show.

IY: Thanks, Mr DD.

HOST: If I could start with our first question. When there are bombings in Baghdad, we see Muslims shouting and protesting in the streets of Arab cities. Why aren’t those same crowds marching and shouting after the London bombings?

IY: I think that is an excellent question. I wish I could answer it, but I have never been to an Arab city.

HOSTESS: Yeah, but wouldn’t you know about feelings of the Moslem world toward terrorism?

IY: Ms DD, there are some 1.2 billion Muslims across the world. I haven’t met them all, but the ones I have spoken to are totally appalled by any attacks on innocent civilians. You have to remember that human life is just as sacred to Muslims as to followers of any faith tradition.

HOST: But it is Muslims carrying out most attacks around the world, isn’t it?

IY: Look, I honestly have to say I haven’t done any research on who commits the most terrorist acts. And I haven’t read any studies on this either.

HOSTESS: But surely you would watch the news and see Muslims always at the heart of terror.

IY: Yes, I do. And Muslims are always at the heart of terror. Because Muslims make up most of the victims of terrorist attacks. Given the number and proportion of Muslims that get killed, you’d think Muslims were being deliberately targeted by terrorists.

HOST: These young men who carried out the terror attacks. Why would young middle class men from Muslim families carry out these attacks?

IY: Well, I think we need to remember that investigations are continuing. We still don’t know for sure who did it or why. And we know that one of the suspects was of Jamaican background. And last I checked, British Jamaicans did not have a substantial Muslim community.

HOSTESS: Look, we have to take a break now. Irfan, stay with us. We will also be taking some calls, but first a few messages from our sponsors …

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Salma Yaqoob: Our Leaders Must Speak Up!

Salma Yaqoob is the vice chair of Respect: The Unity Coalition - a British anti-war, pro-social justice political party.

In the recent British elections, Yaqoob made large votes gains in Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath, and was just 3,000 votes short of taking the seat. The Labor Party (Tony Blair's party) opponent saw his majority cut from 16,000 to around 3,000.

In this London Guardian article, Salma Yaqoob points out the importance of Muslim leaders speaking out against "the official line" of Blair government.

...if Muslim leaders succumb to the pressure of censorship and fail to visibly oppose the government on certain foreign policy issues, the gap between the leaders and those they seek to represent and influence will widen, increasing the possibility of more dangerous routes being adopted by the disillusioned.

This is a very important point, if the self-proclaimed "Muslim leaders" want to have any influence, they must address the very real concerns, including - the war on the Iraqi people, Afghanistan, Palestine, and extreme poverty.

Our leaders must speak up

Failure to oppose the official line creates extremists

Salma Yaqoob

originally published in the London Guardian

Friday July 15, 2005

When Tony Blair describes the London bombings as a perversion of Islam, I agree. The shoddy theology that endorses the killing of innocent people must be challenged. The chilling calculation peddled by some fanatics legitimises innocent deaths as collateral damage for the higher cause of shattering the complacency of western governments and getting western troops out of Muslim lands. To sacrifice your life, on the battlefield or in a suicide bombing, is to achieve the high status of martyr. And the innocent people killed will go to heaven anyway, so their suffering and that of their loved ones is worth the political aim.

Clearly this is a convoluted equation, but one we must pay attention to if we are to get to grips with the threat that faces all of us in Britain today. What is regrettable is that the more simplistic version offered by Tony Blair is setting the parameters of debate. According to him the "perversion of Islam" driving a minority of Muslims boils down to this: hatred of the western way of life and freedom means that Muslims (wherever they live) should kill and bomb people to force them to be Islamic.

This formulation ensures that any contextualisation will remain absent. The suffocating consensus already achieved may well protect Blair (how can he permit any linkage to the Middle East without implying his own guilt) - but it does not protect ordinary British people.

Moreover, as British Muslims we must brace ourselves for a backlash - coming not from ordinary people, but from the need of politicians to deflect attention from their own role in this tragedy.

Because what is undeniable is that the shoddy theology - no matter how "unIslamic" and easily condemned by most Muslims - is driven by political injustices. It is the boiling anger and hurt that is shaping the interpretation of religious texts into such grotesque distortions. Such extreme interpretations exist only in specific political circumstances - they certainly do not predate them, and the religious/political equation breaks down if there is no injustice to drive it.

This leaves British Muslims in a very difficult place. To bring in these wider questions requires them to dissent from the government line. This is difficult for them, keen as they are to avoid further marginalisation. However, if Muslim leaders succumb to the pres sure of censorship and fail to visibly oppose the government on certain foreign policy issues, the gap between the leaders and those they seek to represent and influence will widen, increasing the possibility of more dangerous routes being adopted by the disillusioned.

This cycle of violence has to be broken. By confining analysis to simple religious terms, however, politicians are asking the impossible of our security services as well as Muslim leaders. No number of sniffer dogs or sermons denouncing the use of violence against innocents can detect and remove the pain and anger that drives extremists to their terrible acts. The truth is that shoddy theology does not exist without a dodgy foreign policy.

· Salma Yaqoob is national vice-chair of Respect and chair of Birmingham Stop the War Coalition


Saturday, July 16, 2005

You Say You Want The Revolution

Lynsey Addario/Corbis, for the New York Times

The photo caption is telling:
"Young Iranian women find creative ways to adhere to hijab laws."

From the NY Times Magazine [Link].

British Muslims reject Tony Blair

The following Petition to the UK media was created by and written by Bilal Patel (info@bright2000.com).

To: UK media

On Tuesday 19 July, the Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet with self-appointed leaders and representatives from various Muslim communities in order to discuss and tackle what he calls the 'evil' within these communities. We the undersigned, as Muslims in Britain, totally reject this approach and will take no part in it. We believe that the conduct of the Prime Minister is part of the problem and not the solution. Unelected community leaders who associate themselves with the Prime Minister will also been seen as part of the problem.

Our communities reject any lessons on morality or evil from politicians and commentators who make constant excuses for the tens of thousands of Muslims killed in Iraq and the continuing violence in that country as a result of the American-led invasion supported by Britain.

It is a mark of the Prime Minister's double standards that our communities are asked to account for bombs which killed 70 people in London, and yet are asked to turn a blind eye to the huge number of fellow Muslims killed in Iraq when he led this country into that disaster. Unlike the Prime Minister, we say unequivocally that the bombs which ended innocent Iraqi lives and which he is responsible for, are every bit as evil as the bombs which exploded in London.

Just like the Prime Minister, Muslims too say that we stand shoulder to shoulder with others, and that an attack on one country is an attack on us all. In Islam, Muslims are all part of one worldwide community (Ummah). We believe that an unwarranted attack on Iraq was an attack on all Muslims.

Neither do we believe that the Prime Minister has the remotest interest in pursuing a solution to prevent further terror attacks. He ignored a recent Home and Foreign Office report which stated an increased likehood of a terror attack because of policies pursued by this government in Iraq. Any discussion on finding a solution for preventing terror attacks must therefore include an acknowledgement that Iraq is an issue. The Prime Minister refuses to make such an acknowledgement.

Further, we believe that the government is actively discouraging dialogue with young Muslims in particular, which is something that could prevent future attacks. Progress can only come from open and honest discussion and debate of all views without rejecting them as moderate or extreme. However, the government has already alienated a large section of the population through existing anti-terror legislation. By trying to further silence genuine grievances through tougher legislation, the government is causing more problems. Exclusion is not the answer.

Lastly, unelected Muslim leaders have comprehensively failed to represent the interests of their communities, or to articulate the real anger and frustration of Muslims in Britain today. It is utterly contemptible that not a single community leader has challenged the hypocrisy of politicians who sanctimoniously preach about good and evil, even as the rest of us have to suffer as a result of their policies. These unelected leaders are not representative of the communities and neither will they be seen as such. Therefore individual Muslims must now take the initiative and argue their case without apology. Muslims should not be afraid of stating that the continuing British support of the American led 'war on terror' has made has made her an enemy of those who previously saw her as a friend.

The aim of Tony Blair is to deflect criticism from his policies at this crucial time. He will not succeed. We shall and will continue to remind the truth that the disaster which befell London recently is in no small part due to him. He is part of the problem and he should be held to account for it.


The Undersigned

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ihsan podcast: COINTELPRO and Los Angeles 8

Salaam Alaikum --- Episode 2 and 3 of the Ihsan podcast (both episodes includes a little bit of cool music ) ..

Episode 2: Hatem Bazian on the "new" COINTELPRO directed against Muslims, Arabs, South Asians.

Part1: A history of COINTELPRO.

What is COINTELPRO? From wikipedia:

"operations against Black groups directed FBI agents to "track, expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities" of dissident movements and their leaders."

Episode 3: A somewhat critical look at a San Francisco Bay Area Muslim organizations press conference (KPFA news report) and a history of the Los Angeles 8

The government seeks to deport these two [Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh] long-time permanent resident aliens under the Patriot Act for having distributed magazines and raised humanitarian aid in the 1980s in Los Angeles. It seeks to punish these men – neither of whom has ever even been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime – under a law enacted in 2001 for conduct engaged in fifteen years earlier, at a time when the conduct was perfectly legal. And it seeks to deport them for classic First Amendment activity – the distribution of a magazine.
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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hands off my Islam, Mr Blair!

Tony Blair rarely invites genuine debate about his policies. He is what is known in the business of State control as a ‘conviction’ politician. A typical postmodern political operator. Just like his corporate buddies, Blair is not so much in the business of selling you policies, as selling you to the brand – President Blair PLC. There may be ‘public consultation’ on some matters, but how often is this little more than a PR stunt, a feigned act of democracy, an invitation to tinker with administrative detail while the ideological core of the idea remains beyond critique? Not that Tony is simply a liar. Boss Blair is at his best as arch-manipulator, appealing to beliefs, ideas and attitudes at the point where self and culture are closely intertwined – national solidarity, pragmatic morality and even the affable managerialism which he so claims to be his style.

Blair’s conviction politics is clearly evident in his most recent assertion, to work with Muslim communities to uproot "perverted and poisonous misrepresentations" of Islam. Here Blair is appealing to the British cultural trope of compromise and moderation, made heady by nationalistic appeals to solidarity. After all, in this climate, who could disagree with the idea of fighting extremists who espouse violence? Yet seen from outside the illusions of Blairspeak and patriotic fervour, one cannot deny that Blair’s pronouncements deflect blame from his role in fermenting the cycle of terror and counter-terror. Here is a man whose hands drip with the blood of countless thousands of innocent Iraqis. The reality is Tony Blair is as much an violent extremist, as much an absolutist, as any global Jihadi.

Blair’s intention, along with his neoconservative friends in the White House, is to sell the world to corporate consumer greed. He sells our schools and hospitals to private contractors, or should I say he sells us privately financed public services to in the name of ‘consumer choice’. He wants to sell us GM crops, which benefit only bloated corporations, who care nothing for human health and the environment. In short, Blair champions the PLC, the institution that cares nothing for lives destroyed in the name of profit, even if it means having their friends in the Whitehouse (helped by its poodles) bomb the opposition into submission.

Like his corporate buddies, Blair’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. His government tightens laws on gun ownership in Britain, whilst the UK remains the second biggest manufacturer and exporter of arms in the world. And when his arguments don’t fit ‘the facts’, Blair simply changes the facts. We invaded Iraq because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction; sorry, I mean the threat of WMD programmes; no, I mean we went to war to depose that evil tyrant Saddam Hussein. The man has the gall of a Klingon!

His latest sales tool is nationalism, appealing to the deep sense of shock which all people living in Britain have experienced in the wake of the London bombings. Honing this latest weapon, Blair now calls on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, as “British people”, to condemn the London atrocities, whilst his minions deny any links between these terrible acts and British foreign policy. At the same time, he wants Imams working in the UK to speak English and understand civic life, as if somehow speaking Urdu or not knowing how to claim social security makes you a potential threat to national security.

In Blair’s new world, post 7/7, there can be no divided loyalties, as if our first loyalty should be to ‘nation’ rather than to justice, reason and even God. This is a debased nationalism. Like the colonial leaders and political absolutists of old, what Blair wants more than anything is docile subjects. And just like the crooks that once ravaged Muslim lands, Blair knows that the communities that call themselves ‘Muslim’, just like the ‘British’, are not real communities, based on daily social contact, but imagined communities where ideas play a crucial role in identity formation. King-of-spin Blair is on familiar ground, of course, and he sincerely and passionately believes he can influence Muslims in Britain and elsewhere to support his ideas on ‘moderation’.

The fact is, we’ve heard it all before. Over the pond in the USA, the report of the Rand Corporation extolled a similar vision of Muslim moderation, and no doubt for similar reasons. The “moderate” vision of Islam postulated in this ill-informed document is a political conformist, a perfect Western consumer and docile citizen. Muslims who want the US military out of the Middle East, at gun point if necessary, and Muslims who oppose globalising corporate capitalism and its cultural accoutrements as fundamentally immoral – they are the Islamic extremists. Anything that even smells of Rand will get short shrift from the overwhelming majority of British Muslims, have no doubt of that.

Muslims condemn violence against innocents, which is why so many of us feel as much anger towards Blair as we do towards the London bombers. Indeed, the trail of blood on both counts leads back to 10 Downing Street, second home to Britain’s corporate and largely Islamophobic media. After 9/11, the fishing expeditions and press-pack panics surrounding extremists didn’t so much marginalise lunatics like Abu Hamza – in fact, they probably gave him a degree of credibility that comes with notoriety. Instead, outside the media gaze, a tiny minority of passionate and newly politicised Muslim youth were censored. And when people can’t talk openly about ideas, particular when these people are young and impressionable, they fester in secret places. The truth is, you cannot sanction or marginalise people who are prepared to take their own lives at the same time as others. The best defence against the rubbish thinking of global jihadis is talk, and that's not some woolly liberal view, but an idea already put into practice by hard-headed Muslim scholars.

In Yemen, Muslims leaders directly challenged extremists and defeated their ideas using nothing more than reasoned debate. Instead of rooting out and clamping down, they took known extremists, sat them down and changed their minds in open discussion. "The pen and the tongue that God has granted you can achieve more than all the weapons in the world,” proclaimed Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, a truth Blair routinely exploits to his political advantage. Yet no Yemeni scholar telephoned Tony Blair to buffer his arguments - a truly God-fearing Muslim does not tell lies. None took special courses in English before instigating the debate. And they didn’t pledge allegiance to anything or anyone in this world- only Almighty Allah.

The mistake now would be for British Muslim leaders to be seen walking hand in glove with Blair in the management of post-7/7 Muslim communities. The consequences could well prove to be extremely divisive, even disastrous. British Muslim youth, already politicised and made street-wise by events post-9/11, may well view such a compromise as a betrayal. It is enough that our leaders already sit up and beg as killer Blair showers them with Lordships and knighthoods – it is sad Iqbal Sacranie didn’t take a leaf out of Benjamin Zephaniah’s book, and send his knighthood back. This is a tough time for Muslims in Britain, but let not the fear of reprisals or a false sense of shame drive us into hasty and divisive alignments. Help the police catch criminals, by all and every means, but we alone can and should sort out our own religious affairs without having to drop a knee to Tony and his puppet masters in Washington and the Stock Exchange.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

On Assimilation & Hatred

On the morning of 11 July 2005, I was interviewed by Mike Jeffreys on 2CC. Mr Jeffreys kept asking me questions. I kept questioning his questions and their relevance to his listeners. We ended up being irreverent to each other, and the discussion became irrelevant to all listeners. The interview eventually degenerated into a match to see who could be the bigger smartass.

That’s life on talkback. Irrelevant questions followed by irreverent answers.

The question posed to me which really sent shivers up my spine was the one on assimilation. Mr Jeffreys asked me why more Muslim Australians don’t assimilate. What shocked me about this question was that it was being asked in Canberra, was being broadcast from a studio in Canberra and was being broadcast to Canberrans.

For me, it was easy to dismiss the question as the rant of an irrelevant shock-jock struggling to reach double-figures in the ratings. But after terminating the call and complaining to 2CC management, I then thought about the question further. And one image came into my mind.

It was the image of Srebrenica. Almost exactly 10 years ago, over 7,000 innocent civilians of this Bosnian town were massacred in cold blood. They were murdered in the presence of UN troops sent to protect them. The people of Srebrenica were the subject of a horrendous policy of ethnic cleansing ordered and carried out by some of the most despicable human beings ever to walk the earth in the 20th century.

Why should I think of assimilation and Srebrenica together? The people of Srebrenica were largely Muslim. But they had the same coloured skin and hair and eyes as their Christian neighbours. They intermarried with Christians and Jews and other denominations. They were not exceptionally observant and followed mainstream Bosnian values. Many openly drank, bought and sold alcohol.

Some 40% of Bosnian children are born into interfaith families, where parents are of different faiths. If anyone could teach Muslim Australians something about assimilation, it would be Muslim Bosnians.

But did this assimilation stop the massacre? Did it stop Serbian troops from executing their neighbours and their relatives? Did it stop teenage Serbs from killing their former school teachers?

The slaughters in Srebrenica were repeated in other cities, including the capital Sarajevo. The central square of this beautiful city hosted 4 houses of worship – the Great Synagogue of Sarajevo, an Orthodox Cathedral, a Catholic Cathedral and the Gazi Husrev Baig Mosque. Bosnians of all faiths would visit each other’s churches and mosques and synagogues.

It was this spirit of love between faiths that led to Sarajevo being awarded the winter Olympics. This same spirit led to Sydney winning the Olympics in 2000. When Muslim Australians invited IOC delegates from Muslim countries and refused to let them leave until they pledged on the Quran that they would vote for Sydney, it was clear that the Sydney spirit was alive and well. And that same spirit was reflected in the words of London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone during speeches before and after the bombing.

Terrorists are opposed to this spirit of togetherness and understanding. Terrorists want us to turn against each other. Terrorists are determined to hate. And what drives terrorists into fits of rage is when they see Muslims and Jews and Christians and Hindus and Buddhists and people of other faiths and no faith in particular living side by side in peace and harmony.

Real understanding and peace can exist whether people assimilate or not. But it won’t happen in an environment where people are determined to hate. Because the real source of terrorism is not religion. The real source of terrorism is hatred.

Religions teach us to love. In the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Hillel spoke of love for others when he asked his students: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I care only for myself, who am I?”. In the Christian tradition, St Paul said that love was even greater than faith and hope. And the Islamic traditions are filled with references to love for God’s creation, from Qur’anic verses and sayings of the Prophet to ecstatic poems of Rumi and other Muslim saints.

Assimilation is not enough to defeat determined hate. Minority and majority faith communities can assimilate all they like. The only thing that will defeat extremists is the divine force of love. And this love is not the empty drug-induced idealism of hippy songs. This love is built on knowledge and understanding and recognition that we are all different. And that the things that unite us are more important than those which divide us.

(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer.)

© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Monday, July 11, 2005

Repost: A brief of history of "loyalty": The Japanese American Experience

February 19th, 1942 was the day when executive order 9066 was signed by the then US President, Roosevelt. The actual internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans should, of-course, be remembered - but we must also remember the role of the "ultra loyalists" who colloborated with the internment order, and their role in corrupting Japanese tradition and culture (i.e. they implemented a behavior modification program that was supposed to bring Japanese American in line with the established order).

These colloborators, who presented themselves as "leaders" of Japanese Americans, distanced themselves from all kinds of protest, and civil rights advocacy - and presented themselves as the "good Japanese." We see a similar moves afoot in some sections of the "American Muslim" community.

For those of us who are not going along with such moves - we might have a look back at history, and learn a thing or two...

This attitude of presenting a face of being "200 % American" is nothing new - and I think it is worthwhile to have a brief look at the Japanese American Citizen League - who adopted this approach.

Perhaps this history will sound very familiar to some readers:

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) was formed in 1929, its founder, Jimmie Sakamoto called for the reorganizaton of the old Seattle Progressive Citizens League that was fighting against discrimination:

"instead of worrying about anti- Japanese activity or legislation, we must exert our efforts to building the abilities and charter of the second generation so they will become loyal and useful citizens who, someday, will make their contribution to the greatness of American life."

Fast forward 1941, Mike Mokaso's "JACL creed" as recorded in the US senate:

I am proud that I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, for my Very background makes me appreciate more fully the wonderful advantages of this Nation. I believe in her institutions, ideals and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future-

She has granted me liberties and opportunities such as no individual enjoys in this world today. She has given me an education befitting kings. She has entrusted me with the responsibilities of the franchise.

She has permitted me to build a home to earn a livelihood, to worship, think, speak, and act as I please -- as a free man equal to every other man.

Although some individuals may discriminate against me, I shall never become bitter or lose faith, for I know that such persons are not representative of the majority of the American people.

The JACL also cooperated with the FBI in the arrest of Japanese Americans who were deemed to be "subversive." (These days, the operative words are "extremists" "fundamentalists" "Islamist" "jihadists" etc. )

The JACL's ideology reached its logical conclusion in February 1942, when, under the leadership of Mike Masaoka, they pledged "cheerful cooperation" with the government in response to the expulsion order leading to the internment of Japanese Americans:

"We are preparing our people to move out. We want them to go without bitterness, without rancor and with the feeling that this can be their contribution to the defense of the United States."

"Why jeopardize this country or our people by trying to insist on staying, or even by pursuing our legal rights as citizens of this country to context evacuation?" wondered Masaoka.

And the prize for this super expressions of "loyalty" and "patriotism"? The "good Japanese" were given the task of implementing a program to "modify Japanese American behavior."

Sounds familiar? - In substance, this is not at all different from those Muslims who are (witingly or not) following the Rand Report's recomendations to modify Islam.

Under Masaoka's leadership, JACL leaders advised the War Relocation Authority on how to modify Japanese American behavior inside the camps to create "Better Americans," and offered guidance on how to identify and segregate so-called "agitators and troublemakers." (i.e. "extremists" "fundamentalists" etc. etc. ).
There are many lessons in this history for Muslims - and I'd encourage folks to view this site Conscience and Constitution, The Story of Collaboration. Those of us who are not going to give up our human rights might learn a thing or two from this American history.

Also see the wonderful photographer Ansel Adam's book: Born Free and Equal, that is photographic presentation of internment camps in Manzanar, California.