Muslim Liberals vs ISIS – Tufail Ahmad

Tufail Ahmad“Egypt’s TV channel Al-Kahera Wal-Nas aired an interview of human rights activist Ahmad Harqan who noted that ISIS is doing what Prophet Muhammad did. Harqan said he left Islam because it is ‘a very harsh religion’ and what ISIS is now doing is its ‘physical manifestation.'” – Tufail Ahmad

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiThe Oxford dictionary defines barbarism as a condition of society characterised by “the collapse of civilization”. In recent months, the jihadist group Islamic State, or ISIS, has carried out acts of savagery whose purpose seem to be to taunt the modern world, expose the uselessness of Western military might, and to reverse the secular global order back to the 7th century. The ISIS butchered hundreds of Iraq’s soldiers because they were Shias, beheaded Coptic Christians much like Saudi Arabia beheads humans regularly, poured acid over Christian women for not wearing burqa, cut off hands of thieves, lashed musicians and threw individuals from tall buildings as punishment for “homosexual” affairs. It captures and sells Yazidi women into sexual slavery.

Ali Al-SharimiSince mainstream journalism is essentially negative, such barbaric acts create an impression that Muslims are silent about ISIS and other jihadist outfits. This view is incorrect, as Muslims have been speaking out against the ISIS loudly and at risk to their lives. This is testified from articles and TV interviews of liberal Muslim writers and reformist clerics translated from Arabic and published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (where this writer works). Writing in Saudi daily Al-Watan, columnist Ali Al-Sharimi questioned apologists who fail to condemn ISIS clearly. “Have you ever heard of the ‘but’ gang?” he asked, adding, “This gang contradicts itself: It supports (jihadists), but it doesn’t support; it opposes, but it doesn’t oppose; it condemns, but it doesn’t condemn.”

Iyad Jamal Al-DinOn Al-Iraqiya TV channel, former Iraqi lawmaker Iyad Jamal Al-Din urged Islamic countries to evolve a civil state—as different from a sharia-based state—in which Muslims and non-Muslims could live together. He noted: “ISIS is based upon a certain ideology, upon a certain fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Unfortunately, what happened to the Yazidis … is to be found in the fiqh of Shias and Sunnis alike.” Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the director of Al-Arabiya TV, called for fighting jihadists on the ideological plane, arguing extremism cannot be eliminated by security measures. He added: “The extremist thought will end and will not be reborn for another 100 years if its sources of education, media and funding are dried out.” Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi argued that for Muslim countries, “democracy is not a choice, but necessity”.

Ahmed HarqanEgypt’s TV channel Al-Kahera Wal-Nas aired an interview of human rights activist Ahmad Harqan who noted that ISIS is doing what Prophet Muhammad did. Harqan said he left Islam because it is “a very harsh religion” and what ISIS is now doing is its “physical manifestation”; “The Quranic texts are crystal clear. When the Quran says ‘strike their necks’, it is very clear”; “Boko Haram are also implementing this when they capture women”. Lebanese scribe Hisham Melhem denounced jihadism, saying: “ISIS may be the reject of Al-Qaeda, but like Al-Qaeda, it is the illegitimate child of modern political Islam that grew and expanded in … an embracing environment” fed by conspiracy theories.

Saad bin Nasser Al ShathriKhalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, an influential trader of UAE, questioned the West for its failure to act against ISIS and then asked: “Where are the Arabs? This madness is playing out on our doorstep…. Forget the Arab world as an entity; it’s disunited and in disarray! The Gulf Cooperation Council has the firepower and expertise to militarily intervene on its own.” He suggested that governments could hire the Italian mafia to eliminate the ISIS. On Saudi TV channel Al-Majd, Saudi cleric Saad Al-Shathri declared ISIS fighters as apostates, noting, “An oath of allegiance pledged to ISIS is null and void” and anyone who died while fighting ISIS is “a martyr”.

Tareq Yousef Al-MasriAfter the January 7 attack on French weekly Charlie Hebdo, Imam Tareq Yousef Al-Masri delivered a Friday sermon in New York, where he named early Islamic jurists whose writings teach hate against other religions. “Let us admit something else. The majority of us Muslims hate the Christians,” he told the worshippers, adding: “If you have cancer, it won’t help you if I tell you that you have the flu.” During a Friday sermon in Birmingham, Imam Abu Usamah At-Thahabi urged British Muslims to talk to their children so they are not trapped by ISIS. Imam Hassen Chalghoumi of Paris-based Drancy mosque, speaking on Al-Arabiya TV, noted that about 1,000 French jihadists did not go to Syria “as tourists” and argued for deterrence. Saudi Arabia has deterrence, he reminded, in the form of 15 years in prison.

 Salman Husaini NadwiJordanian columnist Zaid Nabulsi called for recognising the problem with Islam, saying: “It is time to speak out. ‘Islam is innocent’ is an incomplete sentence.” He reminded that 120 Islamic scholars sent congratulatory letters to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Indian cleric Syed Salman Husaini Nadwi was among them. “To understand the crisis of Muslims today, one has to remember that Wahhabism exists in several textbooks containing the alleged sayings of the Prophet Muhammad,” said Nabulsi, urging clerics to reform Islamic texts. Iraqi columnist Aziz Al-Hajj touched on the crux of the Muslim problem. “It is not enough for some Muslim religious leader to appear on the (television) screens in France and condemn (the Paris attacks), for it is quite possible that, a few years ago, he was one of those who encouraged the attack on Charlie Hebdo.”

Aziz Al-HajjIn Iraq where ISIS has risen, an identical force of pious Muslims known as Kharijites emerged during the rule of Islam’s fourth caliph Hazrat Ali. Like the ISIS, the Kharijites butchered Muslims in thousands by declaring them apostates. In those times, Islamic jurist Imam Abu Hanifa challenged Kharijite commander Zahhak in the Iraqi city of Kufa on his interpretation of Islam’s apostasy law. The punishments by ISIS are as per Islamic precedents. Muslims will follow Islam, but the Islamic criminal law must be declared null and void; otherwise, Muslim voices against jihadists will remain ineffective. While liberal Muslims may condemn ISIS, a conscientious Islamic cleric must rise and evolve a critique of Islam’s criminal legal code if we are to see true progress towards reform of Islam. – The New Indian Express, 2 March 2015

Offended Muslim

2 Responses

  1. Why not opt for a uniform civil code which is based on rational thought and not religious edicts? The ghettoization of Muslims is mainly due to the choices the community has made. It one wants to live by religious laws in a secular state, demand special treatment under the law for being a minority, have sharia courts and Islamic banks, then one must also be prepared for being somewhat shunned by the rest. One really cannot expect equality if one always wants privileges which are not available to the rest.

    The main issue with Islam and indeed most monotheistic religions, is that their definition of God is fundamentally problematic. Once you have an angry judgmental God who commands belief while threatening eternal damnation to non-believers, then the people following such a God feel compelled to convrert others. The violence that ISIS and indeed Muslims have displayed at various points in history to non-muslims reflects this worldview–one where the entire world is divided into the believers and the non-believers.

    Sri Jaggi Vasudev had pointed out that the main problem in interreligious wars is the fact the groups hold strong beliefs (none of which can be proven) and insist that the others accept those beliefs. Whereas spirituality is an inner quest for truth and one’s spiritual quest need not clash with another’s.


  2. Muslim Women Are the Most Deprived Lot, Thanks To Silence of Community – Kanchan Srivastava – New Age Islam – March 8, 2015

    Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, an organisation dedicated to the right of Muslim women, has ruffled many feathers in the community with its draft codification of Muslim personal law. The proposal seeks ban on controversial customs like polygamy, verbal divorce and ad-hoc marriages. Noorjehan explains how rationalisation of family law could help curb gross injustice meted out to Muslim women. Excerpts of an interview with Kanchan Srivastava:

    Q.: Can you explain your proposed codified Muslim Law?

    A.: The Muslim Family Act (bill) is based on the values and principles of the Quran and thus it is compliant with Indian Constitution. It aims to consolidate, clarify and codify the provisions of Muslim law and related to procedures regarding Muslim marriage, divorce, maintenance during marriage, after divorce and widowhood, custody of children etc. We have drafted this in consultation with hundreds of underprivileged Muslim women from 11 states. It is the modified and codified version of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 which is in force at present. We are exploring the way to take it to the parliament.

    Q.: What are the major provisions that your proposed law offers?

    A.: Our proposed law seeks to abolish customary practices and ambiguity that have crept into the Muslim personal law over the time. It proposes to abolish polygamy, khulla talaq (verbal divorce), ad-hoc marriages (Halala), 21 as marriageable age for boys and 18 for girls, registration of marriages with district authorities, minimum one year’s full income as Mehr to be given at the time of marriage, right of women to seek divorce among other provisions. This also puts the onus on the husband to maintain wife and children even though the wife is earning, gives custody of children below 14 to women.

    Q.: How is Quran compliant with Indian Constitution?

    A.: The Constitution gives freedom to citizens to follow faith of their choice, so as Quran. Indian Constitution and Quran don’t discriminate between genders, don’t allow polygamy. Both are rational and give equal rights to women.

    Q.: If that is the case, why are there so much ambiguity and controversies with regard to interpretation of Quran?

    A.: Those interpretations go back to 12th and 13th centuries. Some of them were prepared by non-Muslims. Why should we follow such interpretations when we already have contemporary and better interpretations? American scholar Amina Wudud, for instance, has done it with progressive perspective. But Muslim clerics continue to refer to obsolete versions just to deprive women of their rights.

    Q.: What are three biggest issues affecting Indian Muslim women?

    A.: Poverty, communal violence and silence of the community over discrimination of women. The community as a whole is very poor but poverty affects women the most, mainly the widows or divorcees. Communal violence which erupts in intense form almost every decade has made Muslim women’s life more miserable. Incidences of rapes, loss of homes, family members during riots push them towards extreme fringe. Riots also lead to ghettoization of the community, leading to further insecurity among women. Deliberate silence on the part of the community, men and women both has left the Muslim women extremely marginalised.

    Q.: How have people, especially the clerics, reacted to your proposed law?

    A.: It’s not welcoming at all. They even refuse to give audience to us. Most Muslim women are too scared to discuss it, so are men. Thankfully, we are getting support from non-Muslim organizations and women groups, which is encouraging.

    Q.: Did you ever seek support of Muslim politicians to pursue women’s cause?

    A.: Muslim politicians are the most disappointing lot. We have been shown the door whenever we tried to get them along to strengthen our cause, as they fear losing their vote bank.


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