Category Archives: Muslim

Muslim secularists

“Our organization has a two-pronged goal. The first is as a think tank with a specific mission to “separate mosque and state” in the Islamic consciousness and to try to do that through a constant engagement of Muslims in the war of ideas between political Islam – Islamism — and western secular democracy. Americans and Muslims need to realize that this is a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution.”

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Raising children in a religion – abuse or stability?

Next up to take on Richard Dawkins is the Guardian’s Anne Karpf. She begins:

If Richard Dawkins had his way, a fair number of you and, as it happens, me, would be had up for child abuse. According to him, that’s what religious indoctrination of children by their parents is. And if you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical abuse, he argues, why shouldn’t you sue for the damage caused by mental child abuse?

If you accept Dawkins’s characterisation of religion, you’d probably agree. Religious parents, to him, are Mr Dogma and Mrs Bigot: they terrify their kids with tales of eternal hell, fire and damnation, when – that is – they’re not carrying out female circumcision or coercing them into forced marriages. Flat-earthers the lot, they’re brainwashers, fanatically opposed to science and rationality.

Isn’t it curious that we tolerate the stereotyping of religion in a way we’d never abide with race, religion [sic] or gender? I certainly don’t recognise myself in this caricature.

Hmmm in fact Karpf is the one doing the misprepresenation here. Continue reading

Black History Month – Ali Abd al-Raziq

Ali Abdel Raziq (1888-1966) was an Egyptian Islamic scholar and sharia judge. 

An early modernist he was chiefly concerned with the role and nature of the caliphate in Muslim society.

His main work is called “Islam and the Foundations of Governance” (Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm) and was first published in 1925. Due to its controversial standpoints regarding the necessity of the caliphate and religious government, the book triggered an intellectual and political battle in Egypt.

He concludes that since there was no basis for the caliphate in either the Qur’an or in the Hadith there may not be anything un-Islamic about not having it either (but nor is there anything un-Islamic about having a caliphate). In essence he claims that the Muslims may agree on any kind of government, be it religious or worldly, as long as it serves the interest and common welfare of their society.  

Ali Abd al-Raziq went a bit further than this, however, and recounting the horrors of the caliphate, among other things, also argued that religion should not be involved in government or politics. It is exactly this separation that is supposed to protect the religion from political misuse and to enforce morals.

He thus adopted what was essentially a secular approach to politics – there might not be a problem with religious values forming the backdrop to political debate, but he opposed the use of religion as the sole determining factor in political decisions. He was thus a defender of the separation of mosque and state for Islamic nations, a fact which earned him a great deal of opposition from traditionalist scholars and jurists.

From Wikipedia (I know!) and

Interview with a Kuwaiti atheist

Kuwait FlagMideast Youth has an interview with a Kuwaiti atheist, Sara Sultan.

The interview is conducted by a Muslim on the basis that “Young atheists in the Arab world are extremely frowned upon and thus hardly ever given a voice, and if we really want to represent all kinds of people then we should include the voices of those we disagree with as well. ”

Likewise, Sara’s reason for being inteviewed is her belief that she has a right to express her opinions and has no fear from doing so. “People try to bully us into believing things… into being part of a “larger mass.” They kick us into buying anything from political opinions to religious beliefs. I refuse to be a product of such attempts at misleading us. They can call me what they want, at the end of the day I’m just an independent woman with a firm opinion.”

She distinguishes between Ex-Muslims and Aran atheists:

Those who dislike Islam are often agnostic, not atheist. Few convert to other religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and the Baha’i Faith. Arab atheists should not be lumped with other ex-Muslim Arabs who embrace other religions. We do not have anything in common, especially not contempt for Islam. I turned my back on religion because the lengthy study of religions and their respective histories is what made me realize that atheism is the only right path for me. It has nothing to do with Islam itself or me being a former Muslim Kuwaiti. I would have arrived to the same conclusion if I was a former member of any other faith.”

She retains a level of respect and recognises some of the good individuals within religion:

“I try my best not to generalise when it comes to religious groups. All religions are diverse and have worldwide followers that interpret religious texts in very different ways. People are responsible for their own behavior. I know many Muslims who are extremely religious and yet they are very open minded and understanding as to why some of us reject religion in and of itself. Why should I disrespect these good people by ignoring they exist and complaining that only mullah extremists are the appropriate representatives of Islam? Where I live, many young Muslims are actively rising against religious extremism and are trying to represent what is good about their faith. I appreciate their struggles, I don’t ever discourage them by claiming that they’d only be right or successful if they reject Islam altogether and embrace a new philosophy. It’s not in my place to do that.”

And although  she thinks they are “completely misled and wrong” she does not impose her views on others: “That would be a very hypocritical thing for me to do since I’m the way I am mostly because I am anti-collectivism and I hate people who bully others into believing certain things or forcing them to live life a certain way. Like I said earlier, people are responsible for their own behavior and how they choose to live their life is none of my business just like my personal beliefs is none of theirs. The only thing I would encourage others to do is to think for themselves, to be free thinkers no matter how strict their societies are, to have educated and well-thought out opinions. It’s okay if that means you have to stand out from the crowd. And if some people independently chose their faith and strongly believe in it, all power to them. It’s still admirable and respectful as long as they don’t shove their beliefs in our faces and make us suffer the unnecessary consequences when we refuse to buy into their myths.”

Different beliefs are united but unheard in calling for fair and equal education

Simon BarrowEkklesia’s Simon Barrow writes in Comment is Free that Gordon Brown was right to use biblical language at the Labour Part conference against those employing religious rhetoric to oppose diversity and equality in family policy.

He goes on to argue thast “a similar pluralist case now needs to be made in relation to faith schools – where the government’s desire to ease its finance problems and promote social cohesion is misguidedly colluding with the wishes of some leaders of faith communities (not least the Anglican and Catholic churches) who are looking for a new role and new credibility in their battle against long-term decline and public indifference.

At the moment, the case against the selection, segregation, employment restrictions and discrimination wrapped up within the pro-faith schools agenda is being heard as an essentially “anti-religious” one. The exclusive tenor of some secular groups is not helping with this, given the sensitivities involved. Continue reading

Is fundamentalism a revolt against secularism?

Interviewed  in the current edition of Islamica, famed theologian Karen Armstrong is asked “What has made Fundamentalism, seemingly, so predominant today?” She answers 

“The militant piety that we call “fundamentalism” erupted in every single major world faith in the course of the twentieth century. There is fundamentalist Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, as well as fundamentalist Islam. Of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam-Islam was the last to develop a fundamentalist strain during the 1960s. Fundamentalism represents a revolt against secular modern society, which separates religion and politics. Wherever a Western secularist government is established, a religious counterculturalist protest movement rises up alongside it in conscious rejection. Continue reading

Religion and politics don’t mix says Muslim

Firas Ahmad, deputy editor of Islamica Magazine warns of the dangers of mixing religion and politics. He recounts how  the evangelical political lobbying group Moral Majority were so concerned with the perceived immorality and secularisation of liberal America that they aligned themselves with right-wing politics and in the process founder Jerry Falwell “did more to diminish the dignity of belief than he achieved in limiting the sinfulness of modern life.”

Jerry Fallwell and Ronald ReaganWhen the previously unreligious Ronald Reagan stood against, believing evangelical Christian, Jimmy Carter in the presidential electionsm it was only when “Reagan guaranteed Falwell his full support against abortion, the future president rediscovered his religious roots and Falwell tasted the spoils of his first major political victory.”

The damage that this does to the moral voice of religion is “apparent in a poignant scene from the recent documentary, “Jesus Camp.” In it, an enthusiastic 12-year-old boy, steeped in evangelical ideology, rejects global warming as liberal nonsense. There is no reason for Christianity to take an ideological stand against protecting the environment. However, there is every reason for politicized Christianity, allied with Republican interests, to reject global warming on behalf of large oil companies. Religion is never more meaningless than when it becomes the pawn of political or economic ambition.” Continue reading