For a globalization of ideas 5

Ben Johnson at Floyd Reports writes that Juliette Kayyem, the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the DHS, urges the beaming of al-Jazeera into American homes and minds:

[She] wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe this week entitled, “Let US See Al-Jazeera.” … In it, she rakes ign’ernt Americans over the coals for not appreciating Al Jazeera English (AJE), the Anglophone counterpart to Al-Jazeera. Kayyem writes that cable providers should be “promoting engagement in the Arab world” by “bringing a major player in the Arab world to American audiences.”

Al-Jazeera is a Qatar-owned enterprise and a medium of Islamic propaganda.

Juliette Kayyem is the American-born daughter of Christian Lebanese parents. So it’s likely that she would have an emotional bias towards the Arab world – but towards Islam?

Yes, apparently she has that too.

Kayyem wants America to step aside, promote Islamic interests, and hope our enemies will reciprocate our selfless acts of goodwill. In this case, she wants a major Islamic fundamentalist propaganda outlet beamed into 300 million infidel homes. “AJE’s battle with the cable carriers is major news in the Middle East,” she writes. Not carrying the network “sends a message to the Arab world.” Although she reassures her readers, “Cable companies have no obligation to run programming,” she warns that shunning AJE is “understood by the Arab world as a value-laden decision about America’s lack of desire to hear from the Arab world about the Arab world.”

When she served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton White House, and as an adviser to Janet Reno on terrorism, she “came to believe that within the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, there was a bias against Muslims which the Justice Department had a responsibility to address.” Now she wants the government to make good … by serving Muslim interests.

However, (Johnson informs us):

Taxpayers are already paying $1.5 million a year to put Al-Jazeera on public radio airwaves. Two of the three sites attacked on 9/11 now have at least one hour of Al-Jazeera radio piped in over publicly funded Pacifica Radio stations.

He reminds his readers:

Kayyem’s not-so-subtle pressure on American carriers to run Islamic fundamentalist programming joins numerous other Obama initiatives to give more airtime to its friends and deny airtime to its political foes.

It should be obvious to everyone  by now that Obama has a pro-Muslim agenda. Still, we don’t think Al-Jazeera should be prevented from competing for viewers in Western countries. All opinions should be allowed to be heard so that they can be judged. True, Al-Jazeera might win some converts to the ideology of Islam, but it is likely to confirm more in their rejection of it.

What we would like to see is a massive effort at teaching, by every one of the numerous means that now exist, our opinions, our culture, our history, our enlightenment, our method of critical examination, to the Arab and the wider Islamic worlds.

In our post, A cure for religion, February 6, 2011, we wrote:

If the West only took the trouble to teach its values to the peoples who live in darkness – those billions of Others – it might achieve what wars have failed to: the subduing of the barbaric hordes, the ending of their persistent onslaught.

During the Cold War, America spoke to the Communist bloc through Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. The effort was made to tell the enslaved peoples that what their masters would have them believe was not true. Those broadcasts helped to bring the Wall down. Why is no such effort being made to give new ideas to the Muslims? Vast numbers of them are taught nothing but the Koran – or rather, have it beaten into them. …  Why doesn’t the secular West give them something better to think about?

We are not alone in asking that question. Donald Kochan, Associate Professor at Chapman University School of Law,  writes in the Wall Street Journal that we should spread Western ideas in the Arab world by dispensing books:

At this time of unrest and transition in the Arab world, the United States’s capacity to communicate core values of democracy and individual liberty is a priority. Our capability to translate them into Arabic is a necessity. We need to expose the Arab world to the fundamental texts of Western political and philosophical thought. Indeed, the export of ideas may be the most valuable commodity we have to offer.

We agree with him of course. But there is a difficulty to be taken into account.

Literacy rates in the Arab countries are below that of the West, in some very far below. About half of all Arab women are illiterate, and in some countries more than two-thirds. In Yemen, for instance, the male literacy rate is 69%, the female only 28%.

In Afghanistan the literacy rate is 43% for men, and 12.6% for women.

Professor Kochan says, “Our seduction by the power of the Internet has distracted us from remembering the power of books.” But while we might try to teach millions in the Third World to read, we could start teaching them to think by using television, radio, and every device that connects individuals with the world wide web, and that those millions are snatching up with obvious delight.

We think that the best ideas of the West – individual freedom, secular polities, democratic rule of law, limited government, the questioning of all ideas – stand a very good chance of winning in competition with those of collectivism and religion. At least they should be sent into the arena to compete.

A fine fatwa and its sad fatuity 5

An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri, has issued a fatwa against terrorism.

A prominent Islamic scholar has issued a religious fatwa condemning terrorism as “kufr” or an act of disbelief so severe that that those who believe in it forfeit their right to call themselves Muslims… Most previous fatwa rulings only go as far as calling terrorism “haram” or forbidden …

Dr Qadri is a “sheikh ul-Islam”, one of the highest positions in Islamic jurisprudence, and also the head of Minhaj ul-Quran, a global Islamic group whose members are mostly from the Pakistani community.

The 59-year-old scholar, who has written more than 400 books on Islamic jurisprudence, told fellow Muslims: “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching [but see our post Thou shalt kill, March 3, 2010, and the Koran and the hadith] and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts. The world needs an absolute, unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism”.

He also denounced those who try to justify suicide bombings by claiming Muslims who carry out such operations are martyrs destined for paradise. “They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim umma,” he said. “No, they become the heroes of hellfire and they are leading towards hellfire. There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad.”

Although numerous fatwas condemning terrorism have been released by scholars around the world since 9/11, Sheik Tahir ul-Qadri’s 600-page ruling is both significant and unusual because it is one of the few available in English and online. Those hoping to combat terrorism have long spoken of their frustration at the traditional Islamic hierarchy’s inability to exert their influence on the internet, where violent jihadists and Saudi-influenced Wahabis have long reigned supreme.

The fatwa could of course be a very good thing if all Muslims everywhere obey it. But here is one Muslim’s comment, which discourages the hope that many will.

To quote the greater part of it –

Regarding Shaikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s Anti-Terrorism Fatwa, recently launched in London, I guess any steps forward in fighting terrorism should be considered a good thing. However, these initiatives can be read in many ways and I’ll give you a few points off the top of my head, replicates what many others are thinking in the Muslim community.

Firstly, I doubt this will have the clout envisaged by one of it’s apparent key promoters the Quilliam foundation (a counter-terrorism think tank) as the fatwa itself does not have the unanimous backing of the most prominent scholars and Sheikhs, although the opinions and rulings of some prominent scholars do appear to have been involved in drawing it up. Also this is not the first fatwa to condemn suicide bombings/terrorism, and Qadri is not the first ‘important/eminent’ Sheikh to issue such a fatwa, as many more prominent scholars and Sheikhs have done so already …

Secondly, regarding Qadri’s status, the Sheikh in question appears to head a Sufi organisation and as such there will be many branches of the Muslim community that will not recognise his rulings… because in the past he has made segregating comments about some other [fundamentalist] Muslim communities such as Wahabbis and Deobandis. So I’d suggest that this fatwa is not really groundbreaking apart from inside his own organisation and will never be widely acknowledged apart from by his own followers.

Thirdly, although it is important that such a Fatwa has been publicised, the importance and reach perceived by the press, Quilliam foundation, etc, does appear overrated/overestimated. Why? Because those that commit such crimes have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong and ignore them, those that do not recognise this Sheikh would have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong, those that follow this Sheikh should already be clear terrorism is wrong and do not need a Fatwa to tell them this, and those non-followers that already know it to be wrong do not need another Fatwa to remind them.

I’ve read a cross-section of interesting views which collectively place this Fatwa in it’s correct context and weight it’s relevance:

“The fatwa, running to 600 pages, has been written by Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, founder and leader of a Muslim sect based in Pakistan, and highlighted in a press release from the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism thinktank which last year received £1m funding from the British government.” (Guardian)

“It (the fatwa) plays on a widely-held (and sometimes willful) misperception that Muslim leaders have not spoken out against Islamist violence. Large numbers of Muslim leaders have denounced violence, suicide bombs, 9/11, 7/7 and many other bloody attacks by Islamist radicals.” (Reuters)

“Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said while ul-Qadri’s step of declaring “miscreants as unbelievers” was unusual, it was unlikely extremists would take notice of his edict.” (Al Jazeera)

“I don’t think any Muslim will disagree with his fatwa .. Whoever has killed an innocent human beings regardless of religion , colour , race , nationality is a terrorist. At the same time he should have mentioned America and its allies are also terrorists (including govt of pakistan). They have also killed millions of innocent human beings in Iraq , Afganistan … We cant say one side is terrorist and other is fighting for so called democracy.(Islamonline forum) …

“What’s funny is that the Government have money to waste in what’s supposed to be a recession. They give money to the Quilliam Foundation to elicit fatwas from men who have virtually no influence on the Muslims in the UK…  these “scholars” are seen as a joke by the very Muslims they are meant to be deradicalising.” (Islamic Awakening forum)

So thinking more about the ‘Qadri Fatwa’ and the Quilliam foundation there are some concerns that need to be raised. The Quilliam foundation is headed by Ed Husain, a former religious extremist, and actually has minimal support from Muslims. … Husain has realized that, having tried to make a mark in the world through religious fanaticism, he can make more money and career progress by instead jumping on the anti-Islamist gravy train.

When Husain’s not traveling the world lecturing on the threat of ‘Islamist ideology’, he benefits from the fact that the UK government … has  thrown more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money at [the Quilliam foundation].

It’s about time the public (including Muslims) begin questioning and criticizing these self-proclaiming fatwa writers and the barrage of advice they give to the police and security agencies on counter-extremism methods that only serve to further demonise and stereotype Muslims.

– from which we may gauge  how much effect the well-meaning Sheikh’s fatwa is likely to have on Muslim terrorism.

Post Script: Ed Husain does heroic work trying to counter Islamic terrorism. He has said:

As I left extremism I realised that if you are born here [in Britain] and grow up here, then you belong here. The Islam that was preached 2,000 years ago isn’t going to work here in modern London. Muslims need to alter their lifestyles to a Western lifestyle. To criticise is not Islamaphobic. It’s about opposing certain ideas.