Friday, 23 December 2011

Egyptian Intellectuals Discuss the Hijab

Bahija Hussein, Egyptian journalist: Despite this surge of the hijab and of religious clothing, the state of moral values in Egypt is at its worst, and women are harassed in the streets, even if they wear the hijab or the niqab.
A woman is free to wear whatever she wants, under one condition: Just as I respect a woman who wears the hijab, and I have friends who wear the hijab... Society should respect the fact that I do not wear the hijab.
What kind of man is sexually aroused by a little bit of hair and needs to be protected? The Mufti of Australia said that a woman who does not wear the hijab is like a piece of abandoned meat, and that cats should not be blamed if they sink their teeth into it. I say to him: No, this is a disgrace. I'm not an abandoned piece of meat, and men are not hungry cats.
Moderator: In Egypt, we feel there is intimidation that exceeds what is reasonable - through talk about religion, the torments [of hell], and the world to come.
Su'ad Saleh, Al-Azhar University scholar: This is the extremist stream, which I am against.
Moderator: The hijab comes within this context.
Su'ad Saleh: I'm very much against this extremist stream. I paid a personal price because of this stream. When I said that the niqab had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, they called to kill me. A certain [government] official – not even an imam – stepped up to the podium of a certain mosque, and said: "If I ever see Sa'ud Saleh, I will kill her." I received telephone threats in my home. Despite all this, I have never retracted my fatwa, which says that the niqab has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam.
Moderator: But this school of thought which you oppose is the one that prevails, while moderate Islam is nowhere to be seen.
Su'ad Saleh: When I see an unwrapped piece of candy... Let's be completely honest. When I see an unwrapped piece of candy in a display window – what am I bound to do? Islam determines rules of social behavior for the relations between men and women in society. It did not say to the woman: Close up within yourself.
In the days of the Prophet, women were not closed up or isolated. The woman went to the mosque, went to religious meetings, and participated in wars, and raids, as well as in the economy. Therefore, Islam is against the isolation of women.
Bahija Hussein: In my capacity as the "unwrapped piece of candy" - since I'm not wearing a hijab - or in the words of the mufti of Australia, the "abandoned piece of meat" – I must oppose these statements. I am a human being. I'm not a piece of candy and not a piece of meat. I am a reasonable, adult human being.
I made a choice about the way I look. I made this choice freely and wisely.
Moderator: Does the hijab rob the woman of her individual freedom?
Bahija Hussein: Allow me to finish. No one is entitled to criticize me for not wearing a hijab. It is between me and my God.
The hijab of our times – which is prevalent in Egypt – does not just erase the girl's mind, but also her humanity. It erases the humanity of the girl by viewing her as merely 'awra [parts of the body that must remain covered], and the cause of all disasters and calamities, and by believing that having her wear this all-encompassing tent is what the religion is all about.

Egyptian Intellectuals Discuss the Hijab

Bahija Hussein, Egyptian journalist: Despite this surge of the hijab and of religious clothing, the state of moral values in Egypt is at its worst, and women are harassed in the streets, even if they wear the hijab or the niqab.
A woman is free to wear whatever she wants, under one condition: Just as I respect a woman who wears the hijab, and I have friends who wear the hijab... Society should respect the fact that I do not wear the hijab.
What kind of man is sexually aroused by a little bit of hair and needs to be protected? The Mufti of Australia said that a woman who does not wear the hijab is like a piece of abandoned meat, and that cats should not be blamed if they sink their teeth into it. I say to him: No, this is a disgrace. I'm not an abandoned piece of meat, and men are not hungry cats.
Moderator: In Egypt, we feel there is intimidation that exceeds what is reasonable - through talk about religion, the torments [of hell], and the world to come.
Su'ad Saleh, Al-Azhar University scholar: This is the extremist stream, which I am against.
Moderator: The hijab comes within this context.
Su'ad Saleh: I'm very much against this extremist stream. I paid a personal price because of this stream. When I said that the niqab had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, they called to kill me. A certain [government] official – not even an imam – stepped up to the podium of a certain mosque, and said: "If I ever see Sa'ud Saleh, I will kill her." I received telephone threats in my home. Despite all this, I have never retracted my fatwa, which says that the niqab has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam.
Moderator: But this school of thought which you oppose is the one that prevails, while moderate Islam is nowhere to be seen.
Su'ad Saleh: When I see an unwrapped piece of candy... Let's be completely honest. When I see an unwrapped piece of candy in a display window – what am I bound to do? Islam determines rules of social behavior for the relations between men and women in society. It did not say to the woman: Close up within yourself.
In the days of the Prophet, women were not closed up or isolated. The woman went to the mosque, went to religious meetings, and participated in wars, and raids, as well as in the economy. Therefore, Islam is against the isolation of women.
Bahija Hussein: In my capacity as the "unwrapped piece of candy" - since I'm not wearing a hijab - or in the words of the mufti of Australia, the "abandoned piece of meat" – I must oppose these statements. I am a human being. I'm not a piece of candy and not a piece of meat. I am a reasonable, adult human being.
I made a choice about the way I look. I made this choice freely and wisely.
Moderator: Does the hijab rob the woman of her individual freedom?
Bahija Hussein: Allow me to finish. No one is entitled to criticize me for not wearing a hijab. It is between me and my God.
The hijab of our times – which is prevalent in Egypt – does not just erase the girl's mind, but also her humanity. It erases the humanity of the girl by viewing her as merely 'awra [parts of the body that must remain covered], and the cause of all disasters and calamities, and by believing that having her wear this all-encompassing tent is what the religion is all about.

Dying for Nothing

by Charley Reese

I didn't watch any of the Memorial Day events on television. Memorial Day, it seems to me, should be only for the families of the dead. It's really impossible to remember someone we never knew.
Of course, these days Memorial Day gets larded with politics and pseudo-patriotism. It's nauseating to watch a bunch of actors, entertainers and politicians who never heard a gun fired in anger put on a maudlin performance as if they really gave a rat's toenail for the dead.
The fact is, war is started by old men who never go near the war, and wars are always fought by the young. The king of Belgium once noted that it takes 20 years of peace to produce a man and 20 seconds of war to destroy him. Think about that. All that a young human being is – intelligence, health, youth, education, knowledge, potential accomplishments – reduced to a bloody pile of broken bones and guts in an instant. They are strangers killing and being killed by strangers.
War is mass murder, and no doubt part of the degradation of the human species is the fact that starting with the War Between the States, the human toll of war has increased exponentially. It's ironic that wars take the healthiest and bravest, while the unhealthy and the cowardly manage to evade them.
Look at all the draft dodgers of the Vietnam Era who suddenly became war hawks as soon as they were too old to go. I've said it before: If I had children of war age, I would do everything in my power to dissuade them from joining the military.
The present war is a bad war. It is not being fought to protect freedom, let alone the American people. Poor Cindy Sheehan, who bravely protested the war, finally gave up. She felt betrayed by the Democrats, by the antiwar movement, but the saddest thing of all, she said, was that she finally faced the fact her son died for nothing.
And sad as it is to say, it's true. The politicians and some of the media chicken hawks like to fork the fertilizer talking about sacrifices for freedom (sacrifices most of them studiously avoid ever making), but it's just fertilizer.
Why did we go to war in Iraq? Because the president hated Saddam Hussein; because the Israeli lobby wanted us to; because the crazy neoconservatives had the insane idea that the Middle East could be democratized at the point of a gun; because oil companies and other corporations lusted for profit.
Missing is any threat to the safety and freedom of the United States, a threat no Iraqi ever made or ever had the capability of carrying out. So, if you don't want to say the kids are dying for nothing, you can say they are dying for Halliburton, for ExxonMobil, for the president's ego, for a cockamamie theory of a bunch of academics, for Israel, for money or for oil. What you cannot truthfully say is that they are dying for freedom.
The "global war on terror" is just a bad metaphor that doesn't have any connection to reality. How long are the American people going to allow liars to lull them into sacrificing the most precious treasure the country has – its youth – in a futile, lie-ridden, corruption-pocked war?
In my dreams, I see the American people rising like a roaring lion and ripping the guilty politicians out of their offices, but that is only a dream. The kind of people with the courage to do that lie moldering in millions of graves around the world.

Do You Hate Someone?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 in Forgiveness

Do you hate someone? Do you really hate someone? You haven’t spoken to him for a while? You’ve been blaming him?

You’re not the only one; the Muslim Ummah today is diseased with this to the extent that almost every Muslim knows another Muslim who he hates.

The Ummah is like a building with the Muslims as it’s bricks, brotherhood is the cement. Without forgiveness you cannot have brotherhood.

OK then, he wronged you. He deceived you. He backbited you. He lied to you. But even in these extreme situations the Qur’an and the Hadith teach us that we have to forgive others (especially those who hurt us the most) if we wish to earn the forgiveness of Allah on the day of Judgement. We have all committed many sins, made many mistakes and no doubt we have wronged others, we have deceived others, we have backbited others and no doubt we have lied to others.

So what makes us focus onto brothers’ and sisters’ errors while we remain unconscious of our own. Not to forgive is like to live in arrogance, and ignorance of our own shortcomings.
Forgiveness is linked with piety and God-consciousness, is there anybody who is not without sin? Is there anybody who can be arrogant enough to say that he does not need to forgive? Do we not know that Allah forgives those who forgive others? Therefore, we should realise the difficulties of others and forgive them. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Be quick in the forgiveness from your Lord, and pardon (all) men - for Allah loves those who do good.”
[Surah ale Imran; 3:133-134]
And we know that Allah Himself is Ar-Rahmaan (the Most Compassionate) and Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful) and that His Mercy is infinite, and that no matter the sin (except shirk) Allah is always willing to answer the person’s call for forgiveness. In fact Allah loves the tear drop that falls from the eye of one who sincerely seeks the forgiveness of his Lord.

And Allah loves us to have hearts that are ready to forgive.

The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi Wasallam) once asked his companions;
“Do you know what will cause you to have high walled palaces in Paradise (as a symbol of great reward) and will cause you to be raised by God?” When they replied in the negative, he said,
“To be forgiving and to control yourself in the face of provocation, to give justice to the person who was unfair and unjust to you, to give to someone even though he did not give to you when you were in need and to keep connection with someone who may not have reciprocated your concern.”

Similarly the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi Wasallam) said that the best of people are those who are slow to get angry and quick to forgive. On the other hand the worst of people are those, he said who get angry quickly but are slow to forgive.

The characteristic that makes a person most likely to forgive is the purity of his or her heart. Apologies must be accepted, the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said that:

“Whoever apologises to his brother and that apology is not accepted, then the person who refuses to accept the apology bears the sin of one who takes the property of another unjustly.

And the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) also said that:

“The doors of the Garden are open on Monday and Thursday. Every Muslim slave who does not associate anything with Allah is forgiven except for the man who has enmity between him and his brother. It is said, ‘Leave those two until they have made a reconciliation. Leave those two until they have made a reconciliation.’”

If we look at the example and the character of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) we can see that he was always forgiving and never showed enmity to anyone except those who waged war against him. There was an old lady who used to throw rubbish in his way every day, on one occasion she did not throw rubbish in the street, so he decided to go and see what was the matter. She was ill in bed, to her amazement, the Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) came to see her and find out about her.

She accepted Islam.
This is the example of the man whom we claim to follow. Thumamah, as the chief of his tribe had killed many Muslims. On his travels, he was caught by the Muslim soldiers and was taken to the Prophet’s masjid and tied to one of the pillars. The Messenger of Allah (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) commanded his companions to untie him and give him the best food. The Messenger of God (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was indeed a mercy for the worlds.

We should similarly be merciful with each other. First of all, we ourselves should not do anything to upset our brothers and sisters (because this is in itself a part of mercy) and then we should forgive those who have upset us or made us angry. We will never be a strong ummah if we are not able to forgive.
Some might say that to forgive is a sign of weakness and humiliation, and for them it is better to be strong and preserve their honor. But honor in the eyes of Allah lies in forgiveness.

“But indeed if any shows patience and forgives that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.”
[surah 42:43]

If we are to be really strong then we have to be strong against Shaytaan and forgive our brothers and sisters, and in this way maybe Allah will decide insha-Allah to forgive ourselves for our many mistakes.

” …honour in the eyes of Allah lies in forgiveness…..”

Compassionate Justice: Source of Convergence between Science and Religion - Part 7

Dr. Robert Dickson Crane

Chapter Fourteen

The Philosophical and Psychological Context

In every spiritually inspired culture the perennial focus of all higher thought has addressed the interrelationship and relative roles of science and religion. Muslims like to claim that there has never been any tension along these lines in their religion because Allah proclaims hundreds of times throughout the Qur’an that Islam, the primordial religion, is a natural religion in which the signs of God are found equally in nature and revelation, without any possible contradiction.

In Western civilization this most vexing philosophical issue has been posed in the context of immanence versus transcendence. Western civilization started with the cosmocentrism of the Greeks, epitomized in Aristotle, who insisted that the entire universe can be explained without reference to any extraneous source and that the divine, however conceived, exists within the cosmos. The Greeks further developed this into theories of pantheism through what one might call ontological anthropomorphism. They concluded that ontos or being, and the study of it known as ontology, is cyclical in accordance with what we now know as the second law of thermodynamics, and that there is no purpose in anything other than what humans and their anthropocentric gods, if there indeed are any, give it. God is the universe, and man is god. Or in modern Gaia Theory, named after the Greek god of fertility, the universe is sentient and man is only a product and reflection of this universal deity.

Neo-Platonists later introduced theories that resemble panentheism, in which God’s Being is outside the physical universe but He acts within it and even pervades it as its fundamental substance.

The Semitic religions, on the other hand, introduced theocentrism, according to which the universe does not constitute all of reality, because the universe was created and is sustained by God, Who is beyond existence and beyond being, and, in fact, was defined by Meister Eckhart, the “father of cataphatic spirituality,” as the ultimately transcendent “Beyond Being.” All purpose and meaning come from God, i.e., from beyond man and beyond the universe. God said to the universe, “Be!”, and it was. He revealed this through human prophets or representatives of the Divine, but only partially in accordance with man’s limited capacity for understanding.

Furthermore, as a consequence, in Semitic thought, unlike the cyclical thought of the Greeks and some Eastern religions, contingent existence is lineal or directional toward an end time, as is so clearly explained in the classical study, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek by the Norwegian Thorleif Boman.

The greatest Muslim philosopher, Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, attempted to reconcile the conflict between immanance and transcendence at a purely philosophical level, as did his student, Thomas Acquinas, who was the greatest of the Church Fathers. On the first page of his Substance and Existence, Saint Thomas proclaimed: “Wherever I say master, I mean Avicenna.” But the pedestrian theologians of the time could not handle the abstract thought of the masters and so turned what had become a bitter hostility between religion and philosophy into a war between Church authority and science and finally into the separation of Church and State. This led during the secular European Renaissance into devastating wars to divorce religion from all public life. Classical American thought, based on the writings of Edmund Burke, head of the minority Whig Party in the English Parliament, restored the congruity of religion and society as the fundamental basis of the Great American Experiment in self-government, but after the American Civil War less than a century later the secular wars broke out again and continue today.

The decline of Islamic civilization resulted in part because this artificial dichotomy between Revelation and Reason, which was the Islamic counterpart to the Western war between religion and science, as discussed in Chapter Fifteen below, led the more spiritually attuned to withdraw from politics and public life in the belief that such secular pursuits were incompatible with their own esoteric inclinations. The same occurred in America until the malaise of the 1960s convinced Evangelical Christians that the creeping desacralization of America would destroy both it and them.

Less obvious as a problem are the polemics in what has become known as the liberal mainstream. Every tradition exhibits tension between the mystical or esoteric emphasis on the immanence of the transcendent God and the more literal or exoteric approach to God and truth as something external to oneself and the universe. Even the mainstream mystics, such as the various Sufi orders in both Shi’a and Sunni Islam, are divided into at least two camps. Some of these mystics posit the existence of a universal soul, like an ocean, into which the souls of individual persons will dissolve like drops of water after their physical deaths. This form of immanence terrifies those for whom life itself is the highest value. Others, by inward introspection, experience the disappearance or “annihilation” of their own egos to the extent that at least subjectively for them only God exists. Some objectify this experience by claiming that in a very real sense they are not merely created in the image of God, as taught by all the Abrahamic religions, but share an uncreated divine nature. When the popular New Age guru, Shirley MacClaine, a denizen of the mystical and magical communities of Abiquiu, New Mexico, shrieked into the winds along the California coast, “I am God! I am God,” she was not the first to do so.

The problem with such mainstream liberal extremism is that it creates an environment of both elite and popular rejection that facilitates the secularization of thought. Reaction to this paradigmatic warfare within each religion can divert the search for either immanence or transcendence to the worship of the material world as the sole source of truth. This, in turn, can produce a hydra-headed monster of secular polytheism that perverts culture and destroys its dependent civilization.

Other self-proclaimed leaders in every religion, in an opposite form of exoteric extremism, have tried to resolve the alleged incompatibility of the esoteric and the exoteric by overthrowing the establishment and imposing their own political power.

This exoteric mania is the principal threat in the Muslim world, as well as perhaps increasingly in the world beyond. In his magisterial concluding chapter, “The Poverty of Fanaticism,” Professor T. J. Winter of Cambridge University, England, also known as Abdul Hakim Murad, offers a warning and a solution to the phenomenon of terrorism and suicide bombing.

He postulates that the entire world is going through the most “entropic” stage of its history when civilizational energies are dying out in general disintegration and chaos. As part of this process he says that the “Islamic world,” by which he means the “Muslim world,” is passing through a most devastating period of transition. In the worldwide attempt to revivify Islam, the middle ground has become enfeebled, and the ultras, who once formed only a tiny wart on the face of the Muslim world, are effecting a facelift to reveal the evil potential of human beings and hide the soul of traditional Islam. The authentic summons to cultural and spiritual renewal is being deformed by a “splintered array of maniacal forms.”

The task of marshaling the mental resources to invigorate a spiritual revival “must be grounded in an act of collective muhasaba, of self-examination, in terms that transcend the ideologized neo-Islam of the revivalists [which is his polite term for fundamentalists] and return to a more classical and indigenously Muslim dialectic.” He notes that the failure of the Muslim ideologists to revive Islam would seem to suggest that God is not lending them His support.

He expresses horror at the increasingly common phenomenon of religious conversion whereby the young person lost in the secular desert of radical modernity “one morning picks up a copy of the fundamentalist writer Sayyid Qutb from a newsstand and is ‘born-again’ on the spot.” Within days he is recruited to regard war as holy and to wage holy war. Winter asks, “What attracts young Muslims to this type of ephemeral but ferocious activism?”

Islamic conversion, he says, traditionally has been “a process of intellectual maturation, triggered by the presence of a very holy person or place. Repentance (tawba), in its traditional form, yields an outlook of joy, contentment, and a deep affection for others. The modern form of tawba however, born of insecurity, often makes Muslims narrow, intolerant, and exclusivist. Even more noticeably, it produces people whose faith is, despite its apparent intensity, liable to vanish as suddenly as it came. Deprived of real nourishment, the activist’s soul can only grow hungry and emaciated, until at last it dies.”

T. J. Winter’s final paragraph on page 294, which also concludes the book, is perhaps the best summary of the challenge and the only viable response. He writes, “At this critical moment in our history, the umma has only one realistic hope for survival, and that is to restore the ‘middle way,’ defined by the sophisticated classical consensus which was worked out over painful centuries of debate and scholarship. That consensus alone has the demonstrable ability to provide a basis for unity. But, it can be retrieved only when we improve the state of our hearts, and fill them with the Islamic virtues of affection, respect, tolerance, and reconciliation. This inner reform, which is the traditional competence of Sufism, is a precondition for the restoration of unity and decency in the Islamic movement. The alternative is likely to be continued, and agonizing, failure.”


37. Crane, Robert D., Meta-Law: An Islamic Policy Paradigm, Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies, Washington, Virginia, Policy Paper no. 4, May 2000, 49 pages, especially Section B, “Reconciling Immanence and Transcendence,” in Part Four, “The Ecumenical Challenge.”

38. Boman, Thorleif, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1960, 224 pages. This was first brought to my attention in August 1982 by Leif Hovelsen of Oslo in response to an article that I had published in the journal of Moral Rearmament, of which he was an international mentor.

39. Crane, Robert D., “Some False Gods of Personal Transformation,” Iqra, San Jose, California, October 1994.

40. T. J. Winter, “The Poverty of Fanaticism,” in Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars, edited by Joseph E. B. Lumbard, with an introduction by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Bloomington, Indiana, World Wisdom Books, 2004, 352 pp.

41. More details on this seminal book, Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition, may be found in my article, “New Frontiers in Conflict Management: A ‘Grand Strategy’ to Wage Jihad against Terrorist Muslims who would Hijack Islam,”, TAM #28, Oct-Dec 2004.

Chinese and the Islamic Fundamentalists vs. Social Evolution

This post is completely OFF TOPIC - I started off writing about the Great Fire Wall of China and then went on an insane religious and political tangent. I started asking myself, “Why does the Chinese government and other nations repress the cutting edge of human social evolution?” And here is what I came up with.

There are a few cultures hopelessly fighting against the social evolution of humanity. the Chinese government and the Islamic fundamentalist are among the largest and potentially most influential. In a relatively short period of time humanity has gone from tribalism to nationalism and now to globalism. Each stage in social evolution has happend faster and faster and now globalization is happening so fast that it is hard to keep up. Almost every nation is facing immigration, refugee, and security issues as third world conflicts and economic situations leave impoverished people behind forcing them to seek stability in other countries. So called “first world” countries face immigration issues and are greatly influenced by the globalized economy.

Technology, trade and travel have merged humanity and there is nothing any of us can do about it. To their detriment, the Chinese government and the Islamic fundamentalists are really trying to resist portions of this inevitable social change.

The Chinese trade globally and are clearly a leader in the commodities market. But the chinese government represses its people by greatly filtering the exchange of ideas. Some how they don’t understand that it is the ideas of the people that are the greatest and most revolutionary asset in any globalized society… or perhaps they do understand this as certain ideas are a threat to their level of communistic control over the people. They have created what has been coined the Great Fire Wall of China in which they filter certain ideas from the public. Keywords like “tank man” and “freedom” are blocked. The greatest part of globalization is the free exchange of ideas. In the US, this exchange of ideas is making a new breed of middle class who are self-sufficient and becoming very wealthy very quickly.

Contrary to many elitist beliefs the Arab and Islamic world have made many contributions to science, medicine, mathematics, and technology. In fact, Arab muslim Ibn al-Haytham is knows as the Father of optics because he formulated “the first comprehensive and systematic alternative to Greek optical theories”. Many of their contibutions occured between 600 A.D. and 1200 A.D, a period known as the Islamic Golden Age. All this was done when Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Many of there discoveries were passed on and further developed by the Europeans during the Renaissance. (Note: of course, many of the arab/muslim innovations were built on the systems and inventions of the people they conquered… as is the case with the europeans which makes up we know as modern western civilization. We owe the bulk of the origins of western civilization to the greeks and egyptians who the Roman got most of their innovations from).

Bernard Lewis put out a book shortly after 9/11 called, What Went Wrong? which talks about the clash betwen Islam (civilization based in islam not the Religion itself) and Modernity in the Middle East. In a discussion about Bernard’s book, Joanne Myers says:

[Bernard] takes the reader on a journey through history, from the time when Islam was the world’s greatest, most enlightened, and most powerful civilization, to modern times when it has failed to adjust to the challenges brought about by the reformation and the scientific and political revolutions in the West.

In the discussion Bernard points out that the question “What went wrong?” is so pronounced in the Islamic world that many Muslim leaders in the last few hundred years have asked the question. The answers they’ve come up with range from “There are too many infidels” to “We have not kept up with modernity”.

Different things have also been tried in the world of Islam to change:

Now, for the first time, in Iran they are carrying out what I might describe, without intending any disrespect, as the “Christianization” of Islam, using the word to indicate not doctrines, not morality, but institutions. What you now have in Iran, for the first time in Islamic history, is the functional equivalent of a papacy, a college of cardinals, a bench of Bishops, and, most important of all, an inquisition, and, inch’Allah, they will soon have a reformation too.

Bernard Lewis does not state a single reason why Islam (as a civilization) has failed to keep up with modernity. I think Ken Wilber and Robert Keegan are the closest to an explanation when they discusses the Many faces of Terrorism and Integral politics. They place the Islamic fundamentalists (particularly fundamentalist) in the Amber stage of consciousness which means that they are ethnocentric conformist. I would go even further and suggest that they are glued together with flecks of Red (tribalism, sects controlled by Imams) Considering their stage of consciousness it seems that (unlike the old dominating amber roman catholic Christianity) they have not been broken up diluted enough to accept the bleeding edge of human development. That is not to say the individuals and small groups within the Islamic world (such as the Bahai’a and Sikhs) are not at the cutting edge. The core is true hard core amber.

I digress a little, the Islamic world HAS been broken up (Sunnis vs. Shia, etc) but it has not been sufficiently diluted yet. Christianity broke up into Catholic and Protestants. At one time those were large warring factions of Christendom (societies built on Christianity) but now those two have been broken in to hundreds of denominations and spin-off belief systems. Islam has different factions but not as diluted and broken up as Christianity.

Religious denominations are usually created when a member of a certain faith has a spiritual awakening that is so profound they express it to others and start to get a following. Islam seems to have such a strong fundamentalist (solid Amber and Red) core that any new development is stamped out like a camp fire threatening to become a forest fire. I believe that reform is happening right now within the Islamic world the result is constant relentless violence.

Breaking the Silence

One woman is risking her life to speak the truth about radical Islam.

From Reader's Digest December 2006

The Call

Wafa Sultan and her husband, David, were jolted awake by the sound of a ringing telephone. It was just before dawn on a summer morning in 2005, and Wafa couldn't help feeling nervous as she hurried to take the call. Two of their three children had moved to a nearby suburb of Los Angeles to attend college. Were they okay?

A voice on the line identified himself as working for Al Jazeera television, the Arabic-language network based in Qatar which, in ten years, had become the most influential news channel in the Middle East. The producer explained that based on some pieces she had written on Islam and terrorism for his obscure Arabic-language website, a friend of Wafa's had suggested her as a guest on one of the network's programs.

Wafa was stunned. She was not a professional writer, much less a scholar on the Middle East. Though she had grown up in Syria, she had called California home for 16 years, and her days were now completely devoted to her family.

Then again, she did have strong opinions about Islamic extremism, and she was utterly unafraid to express them. So if Al Jazeera wanted to talk to a wife and mother in Los Angeles about this important subject, sure, why not? Wafa accepted. What no one could have guessed was that she was about to become a controversial new voice in the Islamic world -- and for many moderate Muslims, a model of courage.

Wafa Sultan grew up in Baniyas, Syria, a town on the Mediterranean where her father was a local grain trader. Surrounded by protective brothers, she studied hard and rarely stepped outside the bounds of Muslim propriety. But in 1979, as a medical student at Syria's University of Aleppo, she witnessed a crime that changed her forever.

One day, Wafa sat in a lecture hall with 200 other students, listening to her professor of ophthalmology, Yusef Al Yusef. Suddenly she heard the crack of gunfire and then saw her teacher crumple to the floor. A group of men stood next to the body, guns extended, shouting, "God is great! God is great!" in Arabic. The killers, Muslim extremists, quickly ran out, leaving the students staring at their dead instructor.

Deeply troubled by this fundamentalist violence, Wafa was further shaken when she became a doctor in a large hospital. Newly married to an engineering professor, she came home from work with disturbing stories of treating victims of domestic abuse. Women would walk in with black eyes, bruised backs, broken bones. Wafa could mend their wounds and listen to their complaints, but she couldn't discuss openly what she saw as the root cause: a culture that demands total deference to men, amplified by extremist beliefs.

Wafa and her husband, David, began to whisper about leaving Syria in order to escape the growing poverty and religious radicalization around them.

"Talking about finding a new home was our daily bread," says Wafa. It took a decade, but in 1988 David finally got an American visa, flew to California and sent for his family several months later.

Not Holding Back

Wafa had never been out of Syria before, spoke little English and had two small children in tow: a four-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son. Moreover, she lacked the credentials to practice medicine in the United States, and within a month found herself pregnant with her third child.

To make it through their first few years in Los Angeles, she and her husband worked a variety of service jobs, including trading shifts as cashiers at a Texaco station. Still, being out of Syria made them "so happy," Wafa says.

She took part in the social life of the local Muslim community, yet insisted that her children "live the American life." They were taught English from the start, and while they can understand Arabic, the younger two don't speak it to this day. But the culture Wafa left behind was never far from her mind. She started writing opinion pieces on women, Islam and radicalism for the local Arabic press. Wafa was careful not to be openly critical of religion, instead questioning an interpretation of Islam that seemed to breed terrorists and wife-beaters.

Even so, some thought Wafa had gone too far. After one editorial came out, she received a phone call from a man who warned that "even in America, there are limits." The person on the line claimed to be from a prominent Islamic organization. Intimidation of this sort made Wafa nervous and her editors more timid.

Then came September 11. Watching the World Trade Center towers fall on her television screen, Wafa felt enraged and emboldened. "I don't care anymore. I will write what I want," she told David. Too few people were speaking the truth about radical Islam and she, for one, would stop holding back.

And so Wafa Sultan found herself at the Los Angeles studio last year, being fitted with a microphone and placed before a camera. The host, in Qatar, presented the topic of Islam and terrorism to the audience and then surprised Sultan by introducing another guest, Ahmad bin Mohammed, an Algerian professor of Islamic law.

Sultan had no idea that someone else would be on the show to challenge her views. Raised in the Muslim culture, she certainly never expected to be placed in direct opposition to a man.

Given the floor first, Sultan became impassioned as she spoke. "Religion in our countries is the sole source of education," she argued. "It is the sole source from which terrorists drink."

Ahmad bin Mohammed changed the subject to President Bush. "Our guest asked how a youth blows himself up. Wasn't it better for her to ask how a President kills innocent people in Iraq?"

Sultan woke up to the reality of her first appearance on live television: This wasn't just a conversation, but an all-out debate. She drew in a breath and opened her mouth, and the words burst forth like water through a sprung levy. She ran through a catalog of atrocities committed by radical Muslims against innocent victims: "Can you explain the killing of 100,000 children, women and men in Algeria? [Or] the death of 15,000 civilians in Syria? How can you explain the awful crime in the artillery school in Aleppo [where radicals murdered Alawite cadets]? Was this a revenge against America or Israel, or was it to satisfy the savage and barbarian instincts aroused by teachings that call for refusing the other, killing him?"

The two sparred intensely for nearly 50 minutes, sometimes shouting over each other. "He must let me finish!" she implored at one point.

The program, Sultan later found out, was watched by millions in the Middle East. When the taping ended, she left immediately with her husband for the drive back home. "You were great!" he said, beaming. Neither had any idea how drastically their lives would now change.

"A Torch of Light"
Sultan's cell phone was ringing from the time she and David left the station. Soon, death threats were clogging her answering machine. Her name began appearing in Arab newspapers and, ominously, on radical websites. "I was leading a quiet, peaceful life," she recalls, "and suddenly it was totally different."

It was Wafa Sultan's second appearance on Al Jazeera, last February, that brought her worldwide notoriety. This time, she debated Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli, an Egyptian cleric, and once again gave no quarter. "The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," she declared. "It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another that belongs to the 21st century." To Al-Khouli, she added, "You can believe in stones, brother, as long as you don't throw them at me."

At one point, Al-Khouli proclaimed that Sultan was blaspheming against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. After the interview aired, Syrian clerics denounced Sultan as an infidel. The death threats mounted.

To many others around the world, though, she boldly spoke the truth. A video clip of the interview, posted by an American think tank, zipped around cyberspace, reportedly receiving six million hits in the space of about four months. E-mails came pouring in to Sultan, many expressing profound gratitude. "Please, Dr. Sultan, don't fear anyone," read one from an Egyptian Christian. "You are a torch of light and a ray of hope." A Lebanese woman living in Canada wrote, "I have been fighting this fight since I was old enough to understand what was worth fighting for. You make me so proud to be a Middle Eastern woman."

The New York Times called Wafa Sultan an "international sensation." Before long, she was giving talks on Muslim extremism at universities, and participating in conferences on Islam in Washington, D.C., and throughout Europe. This past May, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Earlier this summer, Wafa said she was "in hiding" with her family due to threats she still receives daily. Most are via the Internet. "I will be your killer," reads one e-mail. Another message, left on her answering machine, said, "Oh, you are still alive? Wait and see." Fiercely protective of her children, Wafa tries to shield her youngest daughter from the menacing messages, though the girl is aware of them.

Wafa has also paid a price within the Muslim community in Los Angeles. Before she became a known activist, she had a busy social life with other Middle Eastern women. Today, few of her old friends remain. "They begged me to stop," she explains of the women in her circle. Some feared for her life; others reviled her message. Wafa summarizes their reaction this way: "You can't make any change, so why are you risking your life?"

Her answer is that she is uniquely positioned to reform the culture she came from. She is educated, a gifted writer, a captivating speaker and -- unusual for a Muslim reformer -- a woman. Most crucially, she has the courage to say things that others are thinking but won't express.

To be sure, Wafa doesn't please all of Islam's would-be reformers. Some feel her brash style is counterproductive. Others challenge her interpretation of Islam. But Wafa makes it clear she isn't about to stop agitating. She is now focused on a book she's writing, titled The Escaped Prisoner: When Allah Is a Monster. Asked if she will soften her stance to appeal to a broader audience, she replies, "Not under any circumstances." After half a lifetime trapped in silence, she has found her voice.

Last Updated: 2006-11-13

Beyond Bush

By Fareed Zakaria

June 11, 2007 issue –

In the fall of 1982, I arrived in the United States as an 18-year-old student from India. The country was in rough shape. That December unemployment hit 10.8 percent, higher than at any point since World War II. Interest rates hovered around 15 percent. Abroad, the United States was still reeling from Vietnam and Watergate. The Soviet Union was on a roll, expanding its influence from Afghanistan to Angola to Central America. That June, Israel invaded Lebanon, making a tense situation in the Middle East even more volatile.

Yet America was a strikingly open and expansive country. Reagan embodied it. Despite record-low approval ratings, he exuded optimism from the center of the storm. In the face of Moscow's rising power he confidently spoke of a mortal crisis in the Soviet system and predicted that it would end up on "the ash heap of history." Across the political aisle stood Thomas (Tip) O'Neill, the hearty Irish-American Speaker of the House, who personified the enormous generosity and tolerance of old-school liberalism. To a young foreign student the country seemed welcoming and full of promise.

Today, by almost all objective measures, the United States sits on top of the world. But the atmosphere in Washington could not be more different from 1982. We have become a nation consumed by fear, worried about terrorists and rogue nations, Muslims and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade, immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history of the world, we see ourselves besieged and overwhelmed. While the Bush administration has contributed mightily to this state of affairs, at this point it has reversed itself on many of its most egregious policies—from global warming to North Korea to Iraq.

In any event, it is time to stop bashing George W. Bush. We must begin to think about life after Bush—a cheering prospect for his foes, a dismaying one for his fans (however few there may be at the moment). In 19 months he will be a private citizen, giving speeches to insurance executives. America, however, will have to move on and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.

In a global survey released last week, most countries polled believed that China would act more responsibly in the world than the United States. How does a Leninist dictatorship come across more sympathetically than the oldest constitutional democracy in the world? Some of this is, of course, the burden of being the biggest. But the United States has been the richest and most powerful nation in the world for almost a century, and for much of this period it was respected, admired and occasionally even loved. The problem today is not that America is too strong but that it is seen as too arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. Countries around the world believe that the United States, obsessed with its own notions of terrorism, has stopped listening to the rest of the world.

More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. "They hate you!" says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. "They don't want you to be in this college!" he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. "Or you, or you, or you," he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, "We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us." On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. "This is reality, ma'am," he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. "You've got to clear your head."

The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.
But Iran is a Shiite power and actually helped the United States topple the Qaeda-backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis. We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them. Mao and Stalin were both nasty. But they were nasties who disliked one another, a fact that could be exploited to the great benefit of the free world. To miss this is not strength. It's stupidity.

Such overreactions are precisely what Osama bin Laden has been hoping for. In a videotaped message in 2004, bin Laden explained his strategy with astonishing frankness. He termed it "provoke and bait": "All we have to do is send two mujahedin ... [and] raise a piece of cloth on which is written 'Al Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses." His point has been well understood by ragtag terror groups across the world. With no apparent communication, collaboration or further guidance from bin Laden, small outfits from Southeast Asia to North Africa to Europe now announce that they are part of Al Qaeda, and so inflate their own importance, bring global attention to their cause and—of course—get America to come racing out to fight them.

The competition to be the tough guy is producing new policy ideas, all right—ones that range from bad to insane. Romney, who bills himself as the smart, worldly manager, recently explained that while "some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo, my view is we ought to double [the size of] Guantánamo." In fact, Romney should recognize that Guantánamo does not face space constraints. The reason that President Bush wants to close it down—and it is he who has expressed that desire—is that it is an unworkable legal mess with enormous strategic, political and moral costs. In a real war you hold prisoners of war until the end of hostilities. When does that happen in the war on terror? Does Romney propose that the United States keep an ever-growing population of suspects in jail indefinitely without trials as part of a new American system of justice?

In 2005 Romney said, "How about people who are in settings—mosques, for instance—that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror? Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping?" This proposal is mild compared with what Rep. Tom Tancredo suggested the same year. When asked about a possible nuclear strike by Islamic radicals on the United States, he suggested that the U.S. military threaten to "take out" Mecca.

Giuliani praises the Bush administration's aggressive approach for preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil after September 11. Certainly the administration deserves credit for dismantling Al Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghanistan and in other countries where it once had branches or supporters. But since 9/11 there has been a series of terrorist attacks in countries like Britain, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia—most of which are also very tough on terrorism. The common thread in these attacks is that they were launched by local groups. It's easier to spot and stop foreign agents, far more difficult to detect a group of locals.

The crucial advantage that the United States has in this regard is that we do not have a radicalized domestic population. American Muslims are generally middle class, moderate and well assimilated. They believe in America and the American Dream. The first comprehensive poll of U.S. Muslims, conducted last month by the Pew Research Center, found that more than 70 percent believed that if you worked hard in America, you would get ahead. That compares with 64 percent for the general U.S. population. Their responses to almost all questions were in the mainstream and strikingly different from Muslim populations elsewhere. Some 13 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be justified. Too high, for sure, but it compares with 35 percent for French Muslims, 57 percent for Jordanians and 69 percent for Nigerians.

This distinct American advantage—which testifies to our ability to assimilate new immigrants—is increasingly in jeopardy. If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community's relationship to the United States. Wiretapping America's mosques and threatening to bomb Mecca are certainly a big step down this ugly road.

Though Democrats sound more sensible on many of these issues, the party remains consumed by the fear that it will not come across as tough. Its presidential candidates vie with one another to prove that they are going to be just as macho and militant as the fiercest Republican. In the South Carolina presidential debate, when candidates were asked how they would respond to another terror strike, they promptly vowed to attack, retaliate and blast the hell out of, well, somebody. Barack Obama, the only one to answer differently, quickly realized his political vulnerability and dutifully threatened retaliation as well. After the debate, his opponents leaked furiously that his original response proved he didn't have the fortitude to be president.

In fact, Obama's initial response was the right one. He said that the first thing he would do was make sure that the emergency response was effective, then ensure we had the best intelligence possible to figure out who had caused the attack, and then move with allies to dismantle the network responsible.

We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terror. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country. The real test of American leadership is not whether we can make 100 percent sure we prevent the attack, but rather how we respond to it. Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that our goal should be resilience—how quickly can we bounce back from a disruption? In the materials sciences, he points out, resilience is the ability of a material to recover its original shape after a deformation. If one day bombs do go off, we must ensure that they cause as little disruption—economic, social, political—as possible. This would deprive the terrorist of his main objective. If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense we have defeated terrorism.

The atmosphere of fear and panic we are currently engendering is likely to produce the opposite effect. Were there to be another attack, politicians would fulfill their pledges to strike back, against someone. A retaliatory strike would be appropriate and important—if you could hit the right targets. But what if the culprits were based in Hamburg or Madrid or Trenton? It is far more likely that a future attack will come from countries that are unknowingly and involuntarily sheltering terrorists. Are we going to bomb Britain and Spain because they housed terror cells?
The other likely effect of another terror attack would be an increase in the restrictions on movement, privacy and civil liberties that have already imposed huge economic, political and moral costs on America. The process of screening passengers at airports, which costs nearly $5 billion a year, gets more cumbersome every year as new potential "risks" are discovered. The visa system, which has already become restrictive and forbidding, will get more so every time one thug is let in.

Unfortunately, our fears extend well beyond terrorism. CNN's Lou Dobbs has become the spokesman of a paranoid and angry segment of the country, railing against the sinister forces that are overwhelming us. For the right, illegal immigrants have become an obsession. The party of free enterprise has dedicated itself to a huge buildup of the state's police powers to stop people from working.

For the Democrats, the new bogeymen are the poorest workers in the world—in China and India. The Democrats are understandably worried about the wages of employees in the United States, but these fears are now focused on free trade, which is fast losing support within the party. Bill Clinton's historical realignment of his party—toward the future, markets, trade and efficiency—is being squandered in the quest for momentary popularity. Whether on terrorism, trade, immigration or internationalism of any kind, the political dynamic in the United States these days is to hunker down.

To recover its place in the world, America first needs to recover its confidence. For those who look at the future and see challenges, competition and threats, keep in mind that this new world has been forming over the last 20 years, and the United States has forged ahead amid all the turmoil. In 1980, the U.S. share of global GDP was 20 percent. Today it is 29 percent. We lead the world in technology and research. Our firms have found enormous success in new markets overseas. We continue to generate new products, new brands, new companies and new industries.

We are not really in competition with Chinese and Indian workers making $5 a day. We want Americans to make things that they can't, move up the value chain and work on increasingly sophisticated products and services. We have an educational system that can help make this happen. Of the 20 best universities in the world, 18 are American. And the quality of American higher education extends far and deep, from community colleges to technical institutes.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign for the United States is that alone among industrial nations, we will not have a shortage of productive citizens in the decades ahead. Unlike Germany, Japan and even China, we should have more than enough workers to grow the economy and sustain the elderly population. This is largely thanks to immigration. If America has a core competitive advantage, it is this: every year we take in more immigrants than the rest of the world put together.

In many senses, the world is moving in the right direction. In continent after continent, countries are adopting more sensible policies. That is why we see the extraordinary phenomenon of truly global growth. America, Europe, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey are all growing robustly. Even in Africa, the mood is different these days. Fifteen countries on the continent—with about a third of its population—are growing at more than 4 percent a year and are better governed than ever before. True, the United States faces a complicated and dangerous geopolitical environment. But it is not nearly as dangerous as when the Soviet Union had thousands of missiles aimed at American, European and Asian cities and the world lived with the prospect of nuclear war. It is not nearly as dangerous as the first half of the 20th century, when Germany plunged the globe into two great wars.

In order to begin reorienting America's strategy abroad, any new U.S. administration must begin with Iraq. Until the United States is able to move beyond Iraq, it will not have the time, energy, political capital or resources to attempt anything else of any great significance. The first thing to admit is that our mission in Iraq has substantially failed. Whether it was doomed from the outset or turned into a fiasco because of the administration's arrogance and incompetence is a matter that historians can determine. The president's central argument in favor of the invasion of Iraq—once weapons of mass destruction were not found—was that it would be a model for the Arab world. In fact, the country has fallen apart. Two million people have fled; more than 2 million are internally displaced. Shiite extremists are in power in much of the country, imposing a thuggish and draconian version of theocratic rule. Normal life for nor-mal people—schools, universities, hospitals, factories and offices—is a shambles. If anything, Iraq has become a model in exactly the opposite sense from what Bush had hoped. It has become a living advertisement of the dangers of illiberal democracy.

Things could improve in Iraq over time. But that will take years, perhaps decades. It would be far better for us to reduce our exposure to the current civil war, draw down our forces, let Iraq's internal political forces play themselves out and restrict our troops to certain limited but core missions. We need to continue the battle against Qaeda-style extremists, ( my article about lazer barking ) maintain a presence to reassure and secure the Kurdish region, and continue to train and keep watch over the Iraqi Army. All this can be done with a substantially smaller force—about 50,000 troops, which is also a more sustainable level for the long haul.

The administration has—surprise—tried to play up fears of the consequences of a drawdown in Iraq (which is always described as a Vietnam-style withdrawal down to zero). It predicts that this will lead to chaos, violence and a victory for terrorists. When we listen to these forecasts, it is worth remembering that every administration prediction about Iraq has been wrong. Al Qaeda is a small presence in Iraq, and ordinary Sunnis are abandoning support for it. "If we leave Iraq, they will follow us home," says the president. Can they not do so now? Iraq's borders have never been more porous. Does he think that Iraqi militants and foreign terrorists are so distracted by our actions in Iraq that they have forgotten that there are many more Americans in America?

As for the broader Sunni-Shiite civil war, even if we improve the security situation temporarily, once we leave the struggle for power will resume. At some point, the Shiites and the Sunnis will make a deal. Until then, we can at best keep a lid on the violence but not solve its causes. To stay indefinitely is simply to keep a finger in the dike, fearful of the outcome. Better to consolidate what gains we have, limit our losses, let time work for us and move on.

There is a world beyond Iraq. The primary challenge we face in the Middle East is the rise of Iran. No country has caused greater panic among American elites—of both parties. There are many influential voices arguing for military attacks on Tehran. But let's keep in mind that this is a poorly run, internally divided oil tyranny that is increasingly antagonizing the rest of the world. It is insecure enough to have arrested Iranian-American civilians and warned its own scholars never to talk to foreigners at conferences abroad. These are not the signs of a healthy system. Iran is a serious and complex problem, but it is not Hitler's Germany. Its total GDP is less than one third of America's defense budget. A nuclear-armed North Korea has not been able to change the dynamics of global politics. A nuclear-armed Iran—and we are still far from that point—will not bring about the end of the world as long as we keep it tightly contained.

After years of empty threats and foolish rhetoric, the Bush administration is moving toward a more sensible containment strategy on Iran, though one that faces continued resistance from hard-liners like Dick Cheney. The United States should ensure that the reality of a resurgent Iran brings together the Arab world. The focus should stay on Iran's actions—and not U.S. threats.

I have no magic formula to stop Iran from going nuclear, nor to change Iran's regime. But the strategy we have adopted against so many troublesome countries over the last few decades—sanction, isolate, ignore, chastise—has simply not worked. Cuba is perhaps the best example of this paradox. Having put in place a policy to force regime change in that country, we confront the reality that Fidel Castro will die in office the longest-serving head of government in the world. On the other hand, countries where we have had the confidence to engage—from China to Vietnam to Libya—have shifted course substantially over time. Capitalism and commerce and contact have proved far more reliable agents of change than lectures about evil. The next president should have the courage to start talking to rogue regimes, not as a sign of approval but as a way of influencing them and shaping their environment.

There are many specific issues that the United States needs to get far more engaged in, from the Israeli-Palestinian problem to global warming to Darfur to poverty alleviation. Most important of all is the shift of global power toward new countries in Asia, and what that means for international order and cooperation. But to succeed at any of this, we will need greater global legitimacy and participation. We are living in new times. As countries grow economically and mature politically, they are demanding a greater voice in global affairs and a seat at the high table. The United States should make sure that it is listening to these voices, new and old, and recognize that to function effectively in this new world, it can lead only through partnerships, collaborations and co-operation. The Bush-Rumsfeld model of leadership—through declarations, threats and denunciations—is dead.

Above all, the United States has to find a way to send a powerful and consistent signal to the world that we understand the struggles that it is involved in—for security, peace and a better standard of living. As Barack Obama said in a speech in Chicago, "It's time to ... send a message to all those men and women beyond our shores who long for lives of dignity and security that says, 'You matter to us. Your future is our future'."

Some of foreign policy is what we do, but some of it is also who we are. America as a place has often been the great antidote to U.S. foreign policy. When American actions across the world have seemed harsh, misguided or unfair, America itself has always been open, welcoming and tolerant. I remember visiting the United States as a kid in the 1970s, at a time when, as a country, India was officially anti-American. The reality of the America that I experienced was a powerful refutation of the propaganda and caricatures of its enemies. But today, through inattention, fear and bureaucratic cowardice, the caricature threatens to become reality.

At the end of the day, openness is America's greatest strength. Many people on both sides of the political aisle have ideas that they believe will keep America strong in this new world—fences, tariffs, subsidies, investments. But America has succeeded not because of the ingenuity of its government programs. It has thrived because it has kept itself open to the world—to goods and services, ideas and inventions, people and cultures. This openness has allowed us to respond fast and flexibly in new economic times, to manage change and diversity with remarkable ease, and to push forward the boundaries of freedom and autonomy.

It is easy to look at America's place in the world right now and believe that we are in a downward spiral of decline. But this is a snapshot of a tough moment. If the country can keep its cool, admit to its mistakes, cherish and strengthen its successes, it will not only recover but return with renewed strength. There could not have been a worse time for America than the end of the Vietnam War, with helicopters lifting people off the roof of the Saigon embassy, the fallout of Watergate and, in the Soviet Union, a global adversary that took advantage of its weakness. And yet, just 15 years later, the United States was resurgent, the U.S.S.R. was in its death throes and the world was moving in a direction that was distinctly American in flavor. The United States has new challenges, new adversaries and new problems. But unlike so much of the world, it also has solutions—if only it has the courage and wisdom to implement them.

Beauty of Nature behind Hijab.

June 13th, 2007 at 1:32 pm (Muslim Woman, Hijaab, muslim Women, Muslims, Religion, Islam, General)

Do you wear a Hijab? Give it a try today

The pea is a splendid plant. It proudly displays its strong green Hijab. It protects it from the hot and cold weather and guards it from insects. Allah has blessed the pea with a special Hijab, because without it, the seeds would scatter, dry up and die.

The orange keeps itself within its shiny orange Hijab to protect its delicious fruit. Otherwise it-looses its taste too.

So are the banana, the coconut and the pomegranate. Each one has an elegant and unique Hijab, which protects it from disease and destruction.                

The jewel of the sea, the pearl, has been given a very tough and rugged Hijab - oyster shell. It protects it from sea animals and keeps it sparkling and shining inside.

However, the most beloved of Allah in all His creation is the Muslim girl who wears the Hijab. She knows it is a gift from Allah. It protects her from harm, injury and mischief. She wears it knowing it gives her dignity, beauty and respect. So precious she can be that she hides herself beneath her Hijab.

“Allah does not look at your body and face; rather he looks at your heart” [at-tirmidhi]

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty……And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms….” (Qur’an 24:30-31)

“O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that they should be known and not molested” (Qur’an 33:59).
1.      Red Doll said, June 13, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Nice way to discribe the importance as well as the safty of HIjAb !!
“ALLAH ham sab muslims ko is ke tofeeq ata farmay….”   AMEEN
2.      Anonymous said,

June 13, 2007 at 4:14 pm

A cute analogy. But it falls short. Fruit, vegetables and oysters do not have a choice. They do not have a heart, mind and soul. Where as all females across the globe should have the right to choice. The freedom to make their own decisions. The proper knowledge to learn the difference between right and wrong.

“She knows it is a gift from Allah. It protects her from harm, injury and mischief. She wears it knowing it gives her dignity, beauty and respect.”

An article of clothing can not replace what one has inside one’s heart, mind and soul.
Common sense, morals, ethics and intelligence are what brings about, protection from mischief, dignity, beauty and respect.
Harm and injury can not be prevented because of a certain article of clothing either.Practicing saftey techniques and not looking for trouble can be helpful towards preventing harm and injury. Although if someone wants to harm another, it is hard to keep that from happening. There are bad people in this world who go out of their way to hurt women and girls. I do not understand why you think a scarf can do anything to stop a bad person from hurting a female. It is just not true.

Millions of females world wide who do not wear the hijab, have the same lovely and upstanding qualities, as dignity, beauty and respect.

3. Shaheen said,

June 13, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Jazakallah Red Doll for ur comment


right u r they dont have heart and soul, its just an expression to tell the importance of hijaab. Indeed women has freedom to make their own decisions, to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

“An article of clothing can not replace what one has inside one’s heart, mind and soul.”

Our appearance shows what is inside our heart and mind. I dont think u r a Muslim. Cuz only a Muslim girl can understand the importance of Hijaab.
U dont even know what Hijaab is…it is not a piece of cloth to cover the head, Hijaab is alot more than that. I suggest u to read some explanations regarding Hijaab, in my blog.

American Born Imams

Searching for Spiritual Leadership
Contributors: Mike Ghouse, Linda “iLham” Barto,
Initiated by : Mr. Shamim Siddiqi

Mr. Shamim Siddiqi, initiated five questions after reading the piece in New York Times, which also appeared in International Herald Tribute, the links are listed below.
The questions were critical and the responses will be carried out at and selected excerpts will be added on to the responses below. To become a member, please send an email to :
What opinion our Muslim scholars have about this growing need of Muslims in America?
Should it be side-tracked, ignored or attended seriously?
Can Islam be interpreted in terms of American social and cultural needs?
How they will interpret the story narrated by the story below?
Should this trend be left to the vagaries of Indigenous Imams or an enlightened response must come from Muslim Scholars?
1. What opinion our Muslim scholars have about this growing need of Muslims in America?
Mike :: Most of the 'immigrant' imams cannot relate with the youth born and raised in America, Canada or any other place. They come from different cultures, we can relate with them if we are also immigrants. Recently In a wedding ceremony, one of the Imams was saying to the bride that she has to obey her husband...and... which is fine, but the way he said, sounded like a slave trade and one way transaction. My niece and her friends were horrified with some of that dialogue. There was a Muslim boy who wanted to marry a Christian girl, the Imam gave him very little room; convert her or forget it, the kids went out and got married instead. There is a thing called no compulsion in the matters of faith, and as Muslims, we really need to understand that in its entirety. Some of the Imams lose respect from the youth, their reading of Islam is one thing and the essence of Islam is other. We need to develop homegrown Imams, to reflect our modified culture. Each member of the family drives a car, where as most people outside the US don't, men and women wear different clothing in public and work environs, and we are eating modified food as well. We need to discern our culture from our faith.
Linda “iLham” Barto: “I agree that American imams need to have an awareness of and appreciation for the American way of life as far as its good qualities go, but we must always remember that of foremost importance is that imams have an awareness of and appreciation for the Straight Way of life. Knowing a language and being able to write and speak sensibly in that language, understanding and accommodating cultural traditions without voicing critical negativity, and ministering and witnessing to the diversity of people without harsh value judgments are all factors of being on the Straight Way. Stubbornness and hardheadedness are not, and some imams are just too arrogant to try to be more effective as imams in America.”

2. Should it be side-tracked, ignored or attended seriously?

Mike :: It has to be attended seriously, before our culture and our religion is made fun of by the peers of our kids. We have to speak up. We need Imams who are trained to respect other people, and not the Imams who have never sat with people from other faiths or cultures. The word Aalim should be re-evaluated and not accorded to every one. An Aalim should have the Ilm of the Aalam, and not just his pond. A true Aalim should be able to explain a child or a youth about science, world, other cultures and faiths... and not become a parrot who responds with an yes or no, and keep the community drowned in Halal or Haraam discussions. Respect is earned through Ilm, the knowledge one continues to acquire and develop. A child should be allowed and encouraged to ask any question, we have to have strong faith in our own religion and talk with confidence and not shy away from questions. We have to invite all questions and address them all in the schooling environment.
Linda “iLham” Barto: “Patience, understanding, and accommodation cannot be neglected. Muslims can never help heal the world when we cannot even heal ourselves from the problems of Islam’s dark ages. Many Muslims live in denial of these dark ages and place the blame on outside influences. Talking is a first step, but we can evaluate till doomsday and never get anywhere until we are all committed to proper change.”

3. Can Islam be interpreted in terms of American social and cultural needs?

Mike :: American social and cultural needs are born out of interactions with people and not pulled out of thin air. Gradually most of those cultural wants and needs will become part of us. We and our kids cannot live a secluded life, raising our own veggies and cattle and living on a ranch. We have to live among others and we have to make that a beautiful experience for us, and those around us, as the Prophet (pbuh) did. Please remember, when people converted to Islam during Prophets time, they were not asked to change their names, their clothing's or their life style. The change was only in how they believed in the creator, and accepted responsibility for their actions and creating a just society. They were asked to give up Alcohol as it affects one's behavior and give up eating pork for their own health. No compulsion was followed in Islam on the premise that one cannot be compelled to believe against his or her will. Islam is about freedom and free will for the general good of mankind, and we find much of the American culture immersed in the very same values; freedom and justice.
Linda “iLham” Barto: “As I have often pointed out, we need small, community mosques. I call them mosquettes –satellite centers sponsored and supported by large mosques until the mosquettes can become independent. A mosquette would reflect the culture, traditions, and lifestyles (within reason) of the given community. Whether a person is a city slicker or a redneck, he or she should feel comfortable visiting his or her neighborhood mosquette.
If a person comes improperly dressed or ignorant of Islamic tradition, he or she should be accommodated rather than shunned. Visitors unacquainted with Islamic traditions should be provided a printed program that explains the service. The program should be in English with transliterated Arabic so that the visitor can follow along. Each mosquette should have annual open-house days with specially designed programs that enlighten visitors about Muslims and our religious heritage, beliefs, and traditions. Gradually, with social interaction and grace, the mosquettes would become as familiar as the churches. As long as the mosques and Islamic centers seem foreign to the average American however, the Islamic movement will travel at a slow speed and attract only the few who, like me, were a little weird to begin with.”

4. How they will interpret the following story narrated by American Muslim News Bulletin as appended below?

Mike: Let me quote back some of those eloquent sentences "My main objective is to make Islam relevant", "The problem is that you have a young generation whose own experience has nothing to do with where its parents came from", "on any given Friday are volunteers, doctors or engineers who know a bit more about the Koran than everyone else". Indeed, any one can lead the Salat/ Namaz, the sermons ought to address the community and its needs, and generally they do, many Imams do deliver the sermons that people can relate with, however there are story tellers also, whom our kids cannot relate with.

It is time for the Management of the Masajids to develop an agenda for the whole calendar year and develop a theme - for the year. What should each one of the 52 Sermons achieve? The average Muslim should walk out of the Masjid with a practical but small to do list to work the plan.
It is our country and our nation and we have to do everything in our ability to contribute to make America (or your nation ) a successful nation measured in terms of peace, sense of security, liberty and justice for all. It will happen with our volunteerism and what we would do to make other people's lives (without discrimination -us or them) better. When we serve God’s creation without bias, Insha Allah, we would have earned his mercy and grace as Qur’aan puts it in 49:13 "......The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.” Allah Knows and is Aware."
Linda “iLham” Barto: “I appreciated the article ‘A Growing Demand for the Rare American Imam’ (which is retained at the end of these discussions). When I, in an article, wrote about Islamic virtues that can be found in Valentine’s Day (as in the article below), I was verbally beheaded, but things do change in Allah’s good time. We have an excellent example of an American imam in Warith Deen Muhammed except that he, either intentionally or inadvertently, is too linked to Black Nationalism. Perhaps we need a white Warith Deen Muhammed or a Muslim Billy Graham. Race shouldn’t matter, but the sad fact is that it does. I suggest that a group of white and purple imams study under W. D. Muhammed and get his success story so they can apply factors of it in trying to achieve their own successes, which in turn would become the success of us all.”

5. Should this trend be left to the vagaries of Indigenous Imams or an enlightened response must come from Muslim Scholars?

Mike: We are a diverse community, and no single source of knowledge will completely satisfy us, we have to develop this democratically, equal voice for every one whether a scholar or not. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has conveyed this idea through Salat (Ritual prayers), no matter who you are, you stand shoulder to shoulder with other humans on an equal footing. The problem comes when some one shuts others down, we have to fiercely guard this value. Shutting others comes from insecurities and inabilities to address the issues squarely.
We have several great speakers on different subjects, let's harness their knowledge to impart to our community. Let the Masjids deliver knowledge that is beneficial to living in harmony with life and matter that surrounds us.
Linda “iLham” Barto: “Listen to the people –the hillbillies and the nerds, the debutants and the teenie-boppers, the farmers and the city slickers. With information and research material at the fingertips of anyone who has access to the electronic age, people are able to be more informed, enlightened, and stimulated than ever before. We don’t have to have doctors’ degrees to have something valuable to say. Was Abraham a scholar? Did Jesus ever get a research grant? Did Muhammed ever write a thesis? (Peace and blessings upon them!) Glory to Allah, even a hillbilly like me can say something intelligent once in a while.”

Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 6/1/07

Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon.

Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.)

On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse.

“My main objective is to make Islam relevant,” said Sheik Fazaga, 34, who went to high school in Orange County, which includes Mission Viejo, and brings a certain American flair to his role as imam in the mosque here.

Prayer leaders, or imams, in the United States have long arrived from overseas, forced to negotiate a foreign culture along with their congregation. Older immigrants usually overlook the fact that it is an uneasy fit, particularly since imported sheiks rarely speak English. They welcome a flavor of home.

But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs. On an even more practical level, they want an imam who can advise them on day-to-day American matters like how to set up a 401(k) plan to funnel the charitable donations known as zakat, which Islam mandates.

“The problem is that you have a young generation whose own experience has nothing to do with where its parents came from,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Near Eastern studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, who surveys Muslim communities.

But the underlying quandary is that American imams are hard to find, though there are a few nascent training programs. These days, many of the men leading prayers across the United States on any given Friday are volunteers, doctors or engineers who know a bit more about the Koran than everyone else. Scholars point out that one of the great strengths of Islam, particularly the Sunni version, is that there is no official hierarchy

A pioneer in life and in politics - comment - A pioneer in life and in politics
June 07, 2007
By Haroon Siddiqui
KUALA LUMPUR–She created history in 1999 by becoming the first female leader of a political party in Malaysia.
Dr. Wan Azizah inherited the job, as had several others in Asia: India's Indira Gandhi, daughter of a prime minister; Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike, wife of an assassinated prime minister, and her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga; the Philippines' Cory Aquino, widow of an opposition leader shot dead upon arrival from exile; Benazir Bhutto, daughter of a hanged Pakistani prime minister; Bangladesh's Hasina Wajed, daughter of an assassinated president, and Khaleda Zia, also wife of an assassinated president.
"I thanked God that at least my husband was alive," Azizah told me, recounting her meeting with Aquino in Manila, after Anwar Ibrahim had been sacked as deputy prime minister and jailed in 1998.
Aquino, as anchored in her Catholicism as Azizah in her Islam, was "very welcoming, almost motherly, and gave me moral support and advice."
Azizah, however, is unique in this dynastic circle. She wears a hijab and had a career of her own.
An ophthalmologist – gold medalist from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin – she quit her practice in 1992 to become "a reluctant political wife."
Six years later, Anwar was fired, mainly for challenging his boss, strongman Mohammed Mahathir.
"Police raided and ransacked our house and took him away.
"The next day, a friend called, `I must see you, I must see you,' and came over to tell me that Anwar had been beaten ... in custody and may have died.
"We were not allowed to see him. I saw him only when the rest of the world did," nearly a week later, in court with a black eye and bruises.
Azizah, then 47, inherited his reformasi movement. "I had a husband in jail and six young children. I felt that as a Muslim woman, I must have the strength and resolve to fight injustice."
She formed the multi-racial National Justice Party. Against high odds – little media access, a questionable electoral roll and election irregularities – the party garnered 11.2 per cent of the vote in the 1999 election and won five seats, including hers.
In the 2004 election, with the new prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, sweeping the polls, Azizah's was the only seat her party retained. She beat the imam of the National Mosque, parachuted into her riding to unseat her.
Anwar has since been released but remains barred from politics until next April. Last weekend, Azizah was re-elected party leader.
Being in opposition in Malaysia is tough. The family is monitored, and "people shun us because if they come and see us, they get harassed and lose power and perks. Nobody wants to rent office space to our party. Our political rallies are disrupted."
As with her politics, Azizah was a pioneer with the hijab.
Her mother, the wife of a top Malaysian secret police official, did not wear one. Azizah went to a Catholic convent – "we recited the Lord's Prayer all the time." When in Ireland, "the hijab was given to me by a Dutch convert in 1973. I have worn it since."
Her five daughters wear it as well – as also an increasing number of Malaysian women. It is an individual choice, says Azizah, who does wear lipstick and shake men's hands.
"I hope I project an image of Islam that's compatible with modernity – that Muslim women can be educated, can stand on their own, face the odds and fight oppression. If I've achieved that, I am happy."