Friday, 23 December 2011

Hijabs and Muhajababes

Posted 06/19/2007 ET
Updated 06/19/2007 ET
Just as there is a division within Islam between Sunni’s and Shites, a fashion divide has splintered Muslim women into three factions. On one side are those Muslim women who are true believers. Around the world -- in hijab hotspots -- these traditionalists are fighting for their right to wear head scarves as expressions of their religious piety. Caught in the middle -- sometimes in the crossfire -- are Muslim women who live in countries with issues on what constitutes national identity. On the opposite end of the spectrum are a new generation of young Muslim women known as “Muhajababes,” rebels who cover up to be cool, but hide their true selves behind their veils.
Their stories may surprise you.
In Iran this year the fashion police have stepped up their daily patrols. This special police detail scours the parking lots of Iranian malls looking for fashion offenders. An improperly dressed Muslim woman in Ahdmadinee Land is lucky if she gets away with a warning for having a bad hijab. If she is caught driving in unsuitable Islamic attire, her car can be impounded.
Things can get a little more radical in Pakistan. A woman provincial government minister was shot dead by a fellow who didn’t think her head was covered properly. He claimed the fabric of her hijab was far too transparent.
Hayrunisa Gul, the wife of a candidate for the Presidency of Turkey, has taken a lot of heat for wearing a proper hijab. Turkey has taken great pains to establish its society along scrupulously secular lines, so some folks are horrified at the thought of a First Lady with a hijab. But Mrs. Gul is adamant about being thoroughly modern. As she said to a reporter from The Economist: “My scarf covers my head, not my brain.” For the record, both Turkey and Tunisia have banned women with hijabs from working in government positions.

The communist government of Yugoslavia wouldn’t tolerate them, but headscarves are now being worn in post-war Bosnia. They are giving rise to old ethnic conflicts in areas populated by Christian Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Sounds like a job for Iranian-style fashion police as opposed to UN Peace Keepers.
On the Champs Elysees, Muslim women stroll by in both the traditional black and pastel colored chadors (full length outer garb in addition to head coverings), but like state students in Turkey and Tunisia, Muslim school girls in France are not allowed to wear hijabs. While they were at it, the French also banned any other form of religious dress or symbolic accessories, like those trendy crucifixes.

In Canada, wearing a headscarf in public schools is also forbidden on the grounds that it challenges “Canadian/French patriotism,” and apparently sports sensibilities too. In mid- June, a team of Muslim girls dropped out of a national tae-kwon-do championship tournament because they were told their hijabs must be removed.

Last October, Jack Straw, Leader of the British House of Commons, while neutral on hijabs, felt compelled to share that Muslim women who wore full veils made him uneasy. They also bedevil London bus and taxi drivers forced to brake abruptly for fully veiled women who can’t see well enough to safely cross city streets. Sometimes, they don’t brake fast enough. Ouch.

Which brings us to the controversial book, "Muhajababes", (Constable and Robinson Publishers, UK, June 2006) written by BBC news producer and print journalist, Allegra Stratton. You just have to love that title, even though she didn’t coin the word.

In her mid 20’s, British born Stratton learned some Arabic and began researching the lives of her age compatriots in the Middle East. One of the first things she learned is how many of them there are. 250 million to be exact. Over 60% of Arabs are 25 or younger.
Stratton recalls the moment when, while driving around (pre-war) Beirut with a friend named Darah, they encountered two girls who were “cigarillo thin and Coco Chanel chic with small and tight black hijabs to match their outfits. Darah called them “muhajababes.”
In Arabic, “muhajabah” simply means one who veils. Stratton was soon to learn that these young women were being pulled -- more aptly positioning themselves -- between piety and secularism. They wear the veil not out of religious devotion or as a political statement, but merely because it's trendy. Stratton wrote: “The meaning of “muhajababe” was pretty obvious. These were ostensibly traditional girls, but with a surprising, sassy, modern twist.”
Digging a little deeper, she discovered just how modern Muhajababes are. One of them told her: “Friends of ours who are veiling are doing it because a tight headscarf and a tight outfit is a good look.”

Stratton continues: “in a taxi traveling from Beirut to Jordan, I sat between two girls a little younger than myself. They wore the uniform of 20-somethings everywhere -- flared jeans, hems frayed where fashion trainers had worn them down. They were talking about the prevalence of plastic surgery among the girls in their university.

They laughed about two girls who had had nose jobs or “rhinos” during the last holiday. When they returned to class their teacher had remarked how they had bought the same nose. “Bad enough when it’s the same T-shirt,” said the younger girl.” So many now request “a Gywneth Paltrow nose,” that most Middle Eastern plastic surgeons keep a photo of the Oscar winning actress in their surgeries.

Muhajababes watch what the Arabs call “Video-clips”, music videos featuring scantily clad male or female singers “filmed for four minutes wriggling in sand dunes or jiggling on bed sheets.“ They also listen to western pop stars whose lyrics, they say, are teaching them “how to deal with men.”
“Take sex before marriage,” said one candid Muhajababe. “I know it is haram (forbidden by Islam) but the veiled girls . . . they are all at it.”

Stratton then had explained to her the notion of the “Urfi marriage.” These ceremonies allow a young couple to "get married temporarily" and thereby escape damnation on the basis of fornication. There are, they confided, some post-Urfi operations for these temporary brides that are designed to restore their virginity. Even worse, some admitted to secretly smoking and dancing in lycra tights in places where someone always has to act as a lookout.

Muhajababes, Stratton was forced to conclude, are cultural contradictions. No kidding. She also garnered a little hope from them because, she believes, they have inadvertently launched a bit of an Islamic reformation and portend a more moderate Muslim future.
To others, a world full of Muslim women with Gywneth Paltrow’s nose and Britney Spears’ romantic skill sets will strike a note of terror.
Susan Easton is a third career theologian. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Religious Studies and Theology from the Jesuits. Susan and her husband of 37 years, Terry, divide their time between homes in the Bay Area and London.

Hijab: The 'Flag of Islam'

Posted by Dinah Lord

Veil may be your culture but it's not mine.

Long time readers of Dinah Lord know that Dinah has long inveighed against the hijab as the middle finger of Muslim culture and a political symbol of radical Islam. Imagine her dismay at finding this article, A return to tradition in the Detroit Free Press trumpeting the increase in the number of hijabettes in the Motor City.
Return to tradition? More like a return to the dark ages, if you ask me.

The article profiles a 19 yr Muslima who opted to take the veil and who then convinced her mother to start wearing one, too.

The two are part of the growing number of Muslim women in Michigan choosing to wear the head scarves, known as hijab, with many donning them at increasingly younger ages. The upswing is driven by increased attendance at local mosques and Islamic schools, where clerics often describe hijab as the flag of Islam. And the local trend mirrors an increased use of hijab among women in the Middle East and Europe, where Islamic beliefs in Muslim communities have intensified.

The article goes on to assert how this magnificent act of Muslim piety often comes with a price:

Some "look at us, smirk, stick out their tongues or shout out the window, 'Why do you have that on?' " said Arrwa Mogalli, 29, of Dearborn, who has worn hijab since she was 11. "You have nuns totally covered ... and no one questions it. But when a Muslim does it, we're from outer space."

Putting aside the fact that few nuns wear a traditional habit these days, let's examine the price that Christians pay for being a Christian in Islamic countries, shall we? (and this is by no means a complete list.)

Indonesia: In the eastern islands of this largest Muslim nation in the world, white-uniformed militiamen of Laskar Jihad are forcibly converting Christians to Islam.
This campaign has so far cost the lives of 5,000 to 6,000 people.

Bangladesh: Small radical groups supporting Osama bin Laden have bombed or burned down churches.

Pakistan: Christians depend on the protection of the government as several Muslim leaders have issued fatwas (religious decrees) to kill two Pakistani Christians for every Afghan Muslim who dies in the Anglo-American air raids.

Saudi-Arabia: In the last two months, 15 Christian expatriates have been jailed for worshiping in private homes, and three have been tortured.

Sudan: Some 2 million people, chiefly Christians, have been killed in a civil war fought by the radical Islamic regime in the north of the country against non-Arab population in the south.

Somalia: Anybody found out to be a Christian will quickly be beheaded by Muslim vigilantes.

Nigeria: In 12 states, versions of Shari'a law, the Islamic penal code, have been imposed. After the imposition of Islamic law, riots ensued killing 5,000 in the city of Kaduna alone

Egypt: The government discriminates against Christianity by financing the construction of mosques, while denying permits for the reconstruction of Christian sanctuaries.

But back to Detroit and the disturbing trend of those American Muslims who dishonor this country by swearing allegiance to (and wearing) the flag of Islam:

Flip through Fordson High School yearbooks and you'll see a marked change. In 1990, only seven seniors at the Dearborn school wore hijab in their class photos. That's less than 5% of the female students in the senior class of a public school with a student body that's at least 85% of Arab descent. In the class of 2006, 78 are wearing hijab -- 40% of the women in the class.

And then there's this from the infamous Pew poll:

A generation ago, hijabis, or those who wear hijab, were a distinct minority among Muslims in metro Detroit. But a national survey found that 43% of Muslim women in the United States usually wear hijab or head coverings in public, with an additional 8% wearing them sometimes. The poll of 1,050 Muslim Americans was done by the Pew Research Center from January to April and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The reporter goes on to tell us why. They're getting them young and warping their minds with their cultish gobbledy gook.
The increase in hijab use comes as local mosques are offering more programs aimed at youth. There are lectures and gatherings aimed at American-raised Muslims every weekend. Jawad, the 19-year-old from Dearborn, made her decision to wear hijab after attending a youth retreat with the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

Hijab is the Head Cover Ask a Muslim 04/22/07

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 04.22.2007
By Mona Darwich Gatto
Could you shed some light on the headdress of Muslim women? What is the reasoning behind covering one's face fully? Is this full-face veil called a burka, or is that something else?
– Ellen
Dear Habibati*,
Head (hair) and face coverings are not the same thing. Hijab is the head cover, niqab or burqa is the face cover.
The head scarf (hijab as Muslims call it) is a controversial topic within the Muslim community itself. There is a verse in the Quran that says women should cover their chests, not hair.
"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 must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their cloaks over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss." (Quran 24:31).
"O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful" (Quran 33:59).
There are many interpretations of these verses depending on how one sees it or what culture one is from. Different Muslims see it differently. Some Muslims, who are conservatives and fundamentalists, see the head covering as mandatory for all women. They see it as a sign of modesty, and it is meant to keep the eyes of men away (as if we women don't look at men!) and to distinguish Muslim women from the non-Muslim women.
However, today, no matter how you see this, the hijab has become a political and social symbol to many Muslim women, which for all practical purposes was not the original intent.
The head or the face covering, existed before Islam in the Arab and surrounding lands as a symbol of social class. It meant that those who covered were the richer women, and those who did not were the poorer women. Today this reasoning has little value, and the hijab's meaning has changed dramatically.
Today there are those who preach in the Muslim communities that covering the face (burqa in some places, niqab in others) is a must, not a choice. My father was one of them and enforced it on my mother and me. I decided to let the face cover go after wearing it for 6 years and the head scarf after 20 years of wearing it.
No where does the Quran state that women should cover their faces or hair. From what I understood while living in Egypt, this is a custom in Arab cultures for those who view Islam in very strict and puritanical terms – extremists. They convince women to do it if they want to go to "paradise."
Some say, "nobody buys a diamond not well protected" and other Arabs say, "nobody buys a candy with its wrap half opened," reducing women to objects and food.
Some husbands and fathers will go as far as saying to their wives and daughters, "Obeying me is like obeying God," putting pressure on women. I heard this line all the time while growing up. Unfortunately, a lot of Muslim women, even American converts, buy into that line of reasoning.
I have seen and lived the extreme side of Muslim interpretation and the people who follow it. What I can say is that it is all about control, lack of tolerance and an enormous need to control women because some misguided men will not ever trust women in general, especially women in positions of power.
And, of course, there are Muslim women who choose to cover their head or face. I think that this should always be a matter of freedom of choice because once a government takes away the freedom to choose what to wear, that lack of freedom becomes politicized and extremists take advantage of it. Beyond that, I don't believe governments or those in positions of authority should tell women what to wear.
Mona Darwich-Gatto, an Arab-American, has lived in several places throughout the world and has moved around with her husband, a former member of the U.S. Marines. You can read her blog, "Salaam Sahuarita," and add your comments at Send your questions to
All questions for Ask a Muslim will be considered but because of volume, not all can be answered.
* Habibi and Habibati are the male and females forms of a commonly used Arabic word that means "darling," "honey," "dear" or "friend."

Women under Islam

Stewart Henderson

    Stewart Henderson lives in Adelaide,  Australia and is a Founding secretary of the      Urbane Society for Skeptical Romantics.
Monday, June 04, 2007

Even writing this title makes me quake, perhaps especially after spending much of today reading here, here and here, with all the various links and comments. Still, I’ll have a go at summarizing my emotional and intellectual response, while acknowledging that people like Kim at LP and tigtog from hoyden about town are much more up on the issues and background.
As an avowed secularist, I’m naturally very much in agreement with Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the horrors of Islam viz-a-viz women [and men for that matter – I read recently that Islam means submission, which doesn’t seem to give too much room for development]. I was also interested in what this Somalian infidel had to say about responses to her message in the west in recent times. She found that she was getting a much more positive response from the political right, because the left were too concerned about harmony and multiculturalism and were uncomfortable about her message that, basically, Islam should be thrown out lock stock and barrel as an inferior tribal religion completely incompatible with democracy, progress and all the rest of it.
My immediate reaction to this was again sympathetic. I’ve crossed swords with a couple of people of the left who’ve argued that female circumcision [they baulked at the term female genital mutilation] was a matter for the particular culture or religion involved [we never did get round to determining whether it was a cultural or religious practice, though I might explore that later], and who are we to interfere or to invoke the specifically western concept of universal human rights. In fact the response to this sort of thing is complex. Perhaps my squeamishness or disgust is some kind of western construction, but the fact that these sorts of practices are carried out on children not in a position to give informed consent is a worry and a flagrant abuse of the rights of the child. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1959, and a Convention on the Rights of the Child, dealt, inter alia, with concerns about child female circumcision. Some 140 nations are signatories to it. Article 24. 3 of this Convention states that States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children. Of course it can be argued that, if done under adequate supervision by a qualified medico, female circumcision might be just as little injurious to physical health as male circumcision, which leaves the issue of emotional health with all its attendant subjectivities.
This leads us directly to the big issues. Clearly there are some women who experience no great problem about submitting themselves to circumcision, or feel no sense of betrayal about having it done to them as children, just as they feel comfortable wearing the hijab and submitting to what western women would see as a highly circumscribed role in their society. Writers like Michel Onfray and critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali would see this as evidence of the inferiority of those religion-based societies. I seem to recall the latter pointing out in an article that, in fact, most Islam-infected societies have been little touched by the scientific and political enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, which led to the erosion of religio-political power, the erosion of the divine right of rulers [except of course within the Catholic Church], the separation of church and state, universal secular education, and the advent of democracy. The churches and the believers among us have reacted to these changes in one of two ways, broadly represented in the Richard Dawkins documentary Root of all evil? They’ve retreated into a primitivist denial of science and secular morality, or they’ve sought an often uneasy accommodation with it, seeking to update their religion, which necessitates rejecting or quietly ignoring large slabs of biblical writing, in the light of scientific developments.
It’s not too surprising that in the west, scientists like Dawkins have been keen to press home their advantage, by not only exposing the absurdities of the primitivists, but challenging the accommodationists over their inconsistencies and the conveniently ‘progressive’ nature of their version of religion and the deity.
It’s important to note that, in launching his challenge, Dawkins has focused very little on politics. He would no doubt see the issue as a battle over what is true, with politics being essentially irrelevant to the outcome. Less scientifically-minded thinkers like Onfray, on the other hand, are much more concerned with the nexus of religion and politics, arguing forcefully that the three great monotheisms have achieved their positions of influence largely through the infiltration of the political system. A politicized religion is able to take advantage of the state apparatus to police and punish those who transgress religious morality and religious law. Such a religion can quite quickly become ‘naturalised’ as a political and social reality in a population rendered docile by traditionalist values and assumptions, with no real outlets for dissent and challenge.
All this by way of background to the debate I’ve been reading about over the past few days. Apparently Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been welcomed in places like America by the political right, whereas the left has treated her uncompromising message far more warily. Along similar lines, Oz journalists Pamela Bone and Janet Albrechtsen appear to have annoyed feminists of the left by taking what they see as the high moral ground in claiming western society to be superior and, in Albrechtensen’s case, castigating western feminists and Moslem women themselves for not doing enough to try to change the situation for women under Islam.
Clearly this is a hot topic. A post by Kim at Larvatus Prodeo, criticizing Bone, drew more than 300 comments, many of them informative, but many of them overheated and aggressive, on both sides. Although there are a multitude of positions in the debate, basically the argument from the left is that taking a hard line on the inferior status of women under Islam, and a hard line on the inferiority of Islam in general, both plays into the hands of cultural imperialist, clash-of-civilisation types, and alienates Moslem women, who are hardly going to toss off their hijabs and chuck out their domineering husbands on the say-so of a Somalian intellectual or an Australian pen-pusher.
These are surely valid points. Many of the most crusading interventionist types, from liberal interventionists like Tony Blair to some of the more brutish holy warriors of the Bush administration, have a more or less hidden Christian agenda or raison d’ĂȘtre, and that worries me, as I happen to believe that Christianity has no more evidence to support it than Islam – their supernatural underpinnings being essentially the same. What’s more, attempts to impose enlightenment products such as the separation of state and religion, secular education and democracy, from without or above, are not likely to be successful, as history shows. At least not in the short term.
Having said this, I can’t agree with claims that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s message is one of simplistic rhetoric. As far as I know, she’s not pushing any kind of intervention to liberate Islamic women, the vast majority of whom would not welcome such interference. That would be a simplistic and counter-productive approach. I take her message to be not dissimilar to that of Michel Onfray, that Islam, like Christianity from the time of Augustine through to the Reformation, has been a dark, debilitating force, anti-intellectual, authoritarian and ultimately fascist in orientation. I think there is a pile of evidence to support this view. Christianity, moreover, has only moved in a more ‘loving’ direction since being debarred from political power [though of course Augustine and others always liked to employ the rhetoric of love while advocating the elimination of heretics].
Where this uncompromising position leaves us in terms of dialogue with Islamic theocracies is a difficult question, but I think the best solution is a pragmatic one. I certainly don’t think interventionism will work, though I’m not an anti-interventionist absolutist. The appeal needs to be made to what is universal in human nature. Innumerable studies, many of them gathered together in Steven Pinker’s work The Blank Slate, have pointed to the inescapable conclusion that there is a universal human nature, beyond all cultural differences. The UN has obviously tried to draw upon that nature in drawing up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many have dismissed this attempt as a purely western concoction. I think this is simplistic, but if it can be shown that this is so, then maybe we can replace or refine these rights to make them more universally reflective, and more scientifically based. Of course there are those who claim that science itself is a western construction, at which point I must throw up my hands.
Returning to pragmatism, let me give a personal example. I teach English to a group of women, most of them Moslem. I’ve been teaching this class for about twelve months now, and religion has never been mentioned. I haven’t gone to any extreme lengths to avoid the subject, though I certainly have no plans to bring the topic up for discussion. It’s a matter of accentuating the positives, finding common ground, and there’s plenty of it. Playing my part in the Howard government’s push to assimilate migrants into our Great Oz culture, I incorporate quite a bit of Australian history and Australian politics [non-partisan of course] into my classes, and the students display a lively interest. The point being that they show the same inquisitiveness and interest as I imagine non-Moslems would. Presumably none of these women [mainly from the disputed territory of Eastern Turkestan, but some from Afghanistan and Indonesia] are extremists, though most wear hijabs. At least one of them has been quite outspoken against the Howard government and the Iraq war, and on one occasion I was pressured – very gently – by her, to reveal my attitude toward this government. I could see that my brief response met with a general, amused satisfaction.
What I’m trying to say is, there are ways in which people of different cultural backgrounds can influence each other without being antagonistic, and without compromising their own views. If I was pressured by any of these women to give my views on religion [an unlikely event], I’d have no difficulty in saying that I’m not a believer, but I wouldn’t go much further. I’d try to avoid saying anything offensive, as it would serve no useful purpose. Better to show than to tell, to show that, as a non-believer, you can lead a full and useful and stimulating life, and the world won’t come tumbling down. It’s a very slow, piecemeal approach, but there’s no better one, and the mess of Iraq today shows how badly the attempt to impose western ‘freedoms’ on another culture can go wrong.

Hijab between Human Thought and Sacred Law

by Shaykh `Isam Eydoo

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah's blessings and peace be on His Messenger Muhammad, and his
folk, companions, and followers.
The issue of hijab has met with many problems and challenges in
contemporary times. At first glance, these problems with the hijab seem
warranted. However, upon closer inspection of the law of hijab and
further study of the concept of hijab, which relates to the social
sphere of Sacred Law, the challenges posed to the hijab collapse.
And studying an issue such as this requires us to break it down in a
way that will facilitate our method for completing this discussion.
And without too long an introduction to the philosophy of hijab and
its relationship to the spiritual aspects of the Muslim woman’s life, it
is possible for us to delineate the central themes of this issue, and
they are:
1. The position of this ruling in the fiqh structure
2. The relationship of the hijab ruling to its theological
underpinnings, and that [this ruling] is a subsidiary to a fundamental
3. The underlying relationship of hijab to modesty
4. The hijab ruling falling under the principle of changing laws for
changing times
5. Is the hijab a phenomenon or is it a fundamental, rooted in human
thought and nature?
First, if we look closely at hijab and where this ruling originates,
and what sphere it belongs to, I have no doubt that there is some debate
about placing this ruling exclusively in the social sphere of Islamic
jurisprudence. And isn’t the motive behind the philosophy of the hijab
nothing except the demarcation of social relationships, in which the
human being has lost his way, such that the Sacred Law came to show the
importance of cover and take a moderate course in framing this ruling
and that is the principle of ‘no excessiveness and no remissness.’ Thus
there is no excessiveness in hijab, no contrived exaggeration that is
outside of human nature, the nature that Allah wants us to live by in
all times, with the exclusion of none. And there is no remissness in
hijab, so that there won’t be any reason to deviate from our primordial
nature, fitrah, in whose beautiful shade Allah wants us to take repose.
And the ordainment of hijab in Sacred Law is nothing but an
illustration of the ambiguous social relationship between men and women.
And if, at first glance, it appears that there is some harshness in the
way this relationship is drawn, we should take a second glance at the
constant tendency of human beings to deviate from the right course, and
then we will comprehend that this ruling is a divine wisdom that
requires stopping at these limits. Because, if the bonds of modesty are
torn from the heart and intellect, there will be devastation and
turmoil, which will make the Ummah [Muslim community] leave the right
course in the name of the very modesty that Islam invites to. And what
is stranger than to have the very evidence of what is right become the
very evidence of what is wrong? (I will explain this further when I
discuss the relationship of hijab to modesty.)
Let’s leave this quick sketch to say that hijab is a law that relates
to the social life of the human, and if this is agreed upon, then [let’s
go on to say that] there are societies that change and societies that
stay the same. And if we ask the following question: What is the
societal definition of hijab? Is it an issue that is subject to changes
in society and intellectual currents? Or is it one of those constants
that the Sacred Law describes as being part of primordial human nature,
a nature that expresses the social front of human life.
Let’s explain more: let’s initially suppose that hijab is one of
those issues that change, that follow social thought and cognitive
patterns. Building on this, the form the hijab should take is not a
problem as long as there is modesty. And does modesty differ from person
to person? Or is it a personal value that shows how a person feels and
reacts, and, consequently, there is no problem with any type of
clothing, what’s important is modesty. So wear what you want, but be
modest, and if you want, don’t wear anything, as long as you’re modest.
And what is the problem with this if your actions involve modesty!
I know that no one will agree with what I’ve said, and that I’ve
strayed quite a bit from the intended goal and that this is not what
we’re looking for. What we’re looking for is that there is no objection
to a woman’s going out with modest clothing but without covering the
head, as long as she has the intended modesty. But I am entitled to ask
here: who defines this modest clothing? And is there a clear law about
it? And who has the authority of governing this? And has anything been
conceded by me and everyone else in agreement to this?
The answer: Of course not. [If it were the case that everyone was in
agreement], then let us listen to words that are considered the standard
(of course, for those who believe in this religion that we take as our
way of life). For, the law of Allah says that is necessary to cover the
head because this beautiful creation is the focal point of arousal. And
who amongst us wouldn’t agree to this? But what has made us see this
[uncovering the head] as something ordinary is that we have become
accustomed to it, and [even] relish it. And this may even lead us to say
that what is the problem with uncovering the breasts, as long as there’s
modesty? Aren’t the breasts a normal part of the body, and so on and so
forth…until we allow ourselves to tolerate a law of nakedness in the
name of modesty.
Second, when we discuss this important branch of Sacred Law, we
mention it as a branch, stemming from the root of faith embedded in the
heart. This means that observation of these subsidiary laws [that branch
out of the ‘usul’ or fundamentals] is unavoidable if this basis is
present. And how is it that this intelligent person can accept a law
with all of its fundamentals and then debate with himself and say, “This
is unacceptable and this is acceptable,” so that we become like those
that believe in a portion [of the religion or book] and reject another
portion. And those are the people of special interests, to whom the
rules don’t appeal, except to the extent that they fit their special
Thus, hijab is modesty of faith, and the best modesty is universal
modesty that does not belong to you or me or to any person. This is the
modesty that was described in the hadith as being part of faith, and
that [the opposite] shamelessness is part of aversion [to faith].
Therefore, modesty has a spiritual definition and does not have a
merely subjective definition determined by my own special intellect or
your own special intellect.
Third, if hijab encompasses such a strong relationship with modesty,
then I say that it is impossible for a moral value [such as modesty] to
change from time to time because of intellectual trends that we live
with everyday. For [example], lying, as a moral vice, will remain a vice
forever and ever. And bravery, as a moral virtue, will remain a virtue
forever and ever. And modesty, in its definition as a moral virtue,
defined in the hadith as a branch of faith, will remain a high moral
virtue in the life of every society.
But what has changed in this society of ours that we have allowed
ourselves to say that modesty, as a moral virtue, can change and other
people in previous times did not understand this virtue correctly? And
the right way to understand this is as an internal feeling or emotion
that compels a person to do different things. And, therefore, when
people in previous times covered their heads, they did not know the
meaning of modesty, and instead, were just being pointlessly strict in
order to demonstrate an artificial modesty, not required in this
Let’s think about this a little: doesn’t every moral value, whether
conscious or unconscious, come from inside the human being and push him
to manifest actions that reveal this inner value? And as far as modesty
is concerned, its outward manifestation is an act of complete obedience
to this faith that struggles inside of us, so that we may declare our
complete submission to and pure association with this religion.
Fourth, there are rulings that change with the passage of time and
those that don’t change. And if we want to trace the origin of this
issue in the principles adhered to in this religion, [we see that] the
rulings that change are those that are based on [local] tradition and
custom, not those that are separate from custom.
This is because with the passage of time, the needs of people change;
hence, traditions and customs change too. And with change in traditions
and customs, rulings change, except for rulings based on legal proofs.
And if we want to delineate the domain to which the ruling of hijab
belongs: is it one of the rulings based on tradition and custom? Or is
it one of the rulings that are separate from custom?
I don’t think anyone would agree that hijab was legislated in the
time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because custom demanded it, and
that people in that time needed hijab because they saw it in their
complete interest. Rather, the contrary is true: custom dictated that
people remain the way they were. And how would hijab be in their
interests and what would the wisdom be behind it if the women at that
time were all uncovered? Wouldn’t it just be an artificial control,
undesirable [interference] from the Sacred Law in people’s customs and
traditions? Wouldn’t it be more befitting of the Sacred Law that seeks
to preserve people’s interests, to tell people: stay the way you are and
don’t change anything in your traditions?
However, there is something that is inevitable, and that is modesty.
This matter is hard to get around. So, young girl, stay the way you are,
but be modest, because it is inevitable. However, the Sacred Law did not
go that way, and instead, clearly indicated and plainly expressed that
modesty cannot exist without this ruling, and that is the hijab. And
thus, matters became clear.
And it is possible to say here: what is the benefit of hijab if there
is no modesty? And this is what we see with some women. The issue is not
one of hijab, and that is sufficient.
And one can respond to this by saying: and what is the benefit of
declaring Islam if there is hypocrisy and corruption on the person’s
inside? This means that the objective of Sacred Law is the designation
of laws, their regulation, and application. And beyond that there is
belief in these laws and exemplary application thereof, and it is here
that modesty plays a role as a moral value in our lives.
Fifth, the truth that history is witness to is that hijab, regardless
of its nature and components, existed before Islam in manmade laws and
divine religions, and Islam was not the sole inventor and legislator of
hijab. Hijab existed in ancient cities like Babylon and Assyria.
Cuneiform tablets unearthed in ancient Assyria, dating back to the 12th
century B.C., indicate that Hammurabi’s Code mandated some system of
hijab for freewomen, to the exclusion of slave women. And if a man
wanted to identify his wife as a married woman, he would place a hijab
on her in front of witnesses and say this is my wife. And hijab was
known to the Hebrews, and was known after the time of Ibrahim until the
emergence of Judaism and Christianity.
And there are repeated references to it [hijab] and to the burka
(veil) in more than one place in the Old and New Testaments. In the Book
of Genesis, chapter 24, “Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got
down from her camel and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man in the field
coming to meet us?’ ‘He is my master,’ the servant answered. So she took
her veil and covered herself.” And in chapter 38, “When Tamar was told,
‘Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,’ she
took off her widow's clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise
herself.” And in chapter three of the Book of Isaiah, “The Lord says,
‘The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with
ornaments jingling on their ankles.’ Therefore the Lord will bring sores
on the heads of the women of Zion.”

So the reality of the matter is that Islam was not the innovator in
mandating hijab on the Muslim woman. And if hijab was a custom of old,
there is no doubt that Islam used it to improve the status of woman and
made it [hijab] a behavioral etiquette, its goal being the prevention of
temptation and the protection of the sacrosanct.
And Allah, be He Exalted and Glorified, knows best.
Muhammad ‘Isam Eidou

Compassionate Justice: Source of Convergence between Science and Religion

by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane

Chapter Eight

Human Rights in Islam from the Political Perspective

In addressing human rights in Islam from the political perspective, one must distinguish between theory and practice. The two human rights most emphasized today from the political perspective are political freedom and religious freedom, with gender equity a close third. Religious freedom has been respected in practice historically better in Islamdom than it has in Christendom, but the opposite has been true in recent centuries for political freedom in the sense of institutionalizing representative government.

The universal principle of political freedom, known as haqq al hurriya in Islamic jurisprudence, has always been understood as a call for self-determination by individual persons and by the communities in which they find their social identities. The secondary level of hajjiyat calls first of all for khilafa. This provides that the highest responsibility both of those who govern and those who are governed is to God. The idea is that people should be governed by people who are governed by God. This is basic to Thomas Jefferson’s teaching that a people can remain free only if they are educated, that education consists primarily in learning virtue, and that a people can remain virtuous only if both their private and their public lives are infused with awareness of God.

The next of the second-level principles of haqq al hurriya or political freedom is shura, which calls for responsive governance and for political institutions to assure that the government is a servant of the people rather than the reverse.

The third requirement is known as ijma, which is the duty of every citizen and especially of the opinion leaders to seek consensus on a preferred political agenda and to reach compromises on the means to pursue this agenda in specific policies and courses of action.

Institutionalizing these three second-level requirements of political freedom is important because self-determination as the framework of haqq al hurriya is based on the principle known in Western moral theology as “subsidiarity.”

This provides that all problems should be resolved at the lowest political levels, with resort to higher levels only when resolution is otherwise impossible. The concept of subsidiarity comes from two of the other primary principles in the Islamic code of human rights. The first of these two is haqq al haya, which provides that the highest level of human sovereignty, subject only to the Sovereignty of God, is the human person. This, in turn, gives rise to the correlative principle of haqq al nasl, which provides for the derivative sovereignty of the human community in ascending levels all the way to entire civilizations and even to the human species.

Imposing the ideology of modernism in the form of centralizing secular fundamentalism has been the principal barrier to both political and economic development in traditionalist societies. This was the key thesis of my fifty-page position paper on development economics that Richard Nixon asked me to write for the 1968 presidential campaign, later published under the title “New Directions for American Foreign Policy: Some Thoughts for Macromodeling,” in the Summer 1969 issue of Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs, and republished in This was one of five such position papers that he asked me to write on what we agreed were the major issues based on the two criteria that they presented both maximum threat and maximum opportunity and that they could be effectively addressed only through paradigmatic revolution. Gerald Ford wrote a foreword for publication of the set of five under the title Inescapable Rendezvous: Premises, Problems, and Prospects for American Foreign Policy and used its basic conclusion in his speech celebrating the bicentennial of America’s birth on July 4, 1976, namely, that the purpose of America is not power but justice.

The key paragraph of this position paper on Third World political dynamics, in the section entitled “Developing a New World Vision,” reads as follows:

“The imposition of centralized secular power as a method of modernization without the concept of community-based coherence and responsibility behind it, the propagation of atomistic individualism as a means to societal transformation without a moral recognition of the value of the individual person, and the accompanying attempt to impose an omnivorous collectivity without an appreciation of the responsibility and value of free community, all combine to create a crisis in identity and authority that has profoundly unsettled the Afro-Asian peoples. The efforts of the mobilizing state to monopolize personal and group loyalties at a single level of the political spectrum, and to diffuse legitimacy downward from the corporate state rather than to permit loyalty and legitimacy to spread upward from the families and communities of individual persons, have tended to cause a radical contraction of the individual away from nature and from other persons into the material boundaries of the calculating ego. The primordial loyalties of communal nationalism in the first instance have become a fulcrum for a passive longing not to belong to any other group or for the blind aggression of defensive self-assertion. Recently, the primordial instincts of literally billions of people have brought them to awareness of a higher reality and created a willingness to live for this reality, as well as even to die for it.”

Such respect for both personal and community-based sovereignty is the root of the Islamic concept of ittihad, which refers to the unity that can result from the decentralization of political power through federalism or the looser concept of confederalism. Since political power follows the economic power of ownership, in Iraq, for example, decentralized political legitimacy might be operationalized best by de-monopolizing ownership of Iraqi oil in equal shares of lifetime inalienable voting stock to the ultimate level of sovereignty, namely, to every person resident in an Iraqi federation.

Such pulverization of concentrated economic power would support American efforts to help the people of Iraq develop a free, democratic society. Unfortunately, current policies of top-down centralization and modernization have forced tradition-based communities into competition with each other either to control the American-imposed central government or to destroy it.

The same intractable problem has been created in Afghanistan, according to Selig Harrison, who was the long-time South Asia bureau chief at the Washington Post and is now Director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy. In his column of January 30, 2007, entitled “Discarding an Afghan Opportunity,” Harrison laments that the U.S.-backed Karzai government has been “rushing to create a centralized regime instead of keying the process [of unification] to the gradual development of a national economic infrastructure” in which every person has a personal stake.

The real problem is that the concentration of economic and political power at the behest of foreign interests is considered by both Iraqis and Afghanis and by most of the rest of the world as a denial of justice.

Even in the Holy Land we see a strategy to create two centralized governments in what may become two ghetto states rather than to promote a decentralized economy of mutual advantage as the means to develop a regional Abraham Federation based on acknowledgement that for more than a thousand years Muslims and Jews were each other’s most reliable friends and could be again. This option has been advanced and detailed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice now for almost a quarter century.

Such initiatives, including an extensive position paper on rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina, are fully developed in several books and on the web site of the Center for Economic and Social Justice. This interfaith think-tank was founded in 1984. One of its first projects was to create and carry through to publication what President Ronald Reagan inaugurated as the Presidential Task Force on Economic Justice in order to introduce into national discussion a new approach to both politics and economics.

What is now known as the Just Third Way paradigm for economic prosperity is not new, having been first developed by Louis Kelso and America’s greatest philosopher, Mortimer Adler, half a century ago, in their misleadingly entitled book, The Capitalist Manifesto. During the 1990s, several books developed this further, including Every Worker an Owner: A Revolutionary Free Enterprise Challenge to Marxism, Dawn K. Brohawn, ed., Center for Economic and Social Justice, Arlington, Virginia, which was presented in 1992 to Pope John Paul II. Another seminal book is Curing World Poverty: The New Role of Property, which was jointly published in 1994 with the Social Justice Review. A basic text may be found in the book by Robert Ashford and Rodney Shakespeare, Binary Economics: The New Paradigm, published in 1999. A more recent text introducing many new ideas was published in 2004 by the Center for Economic and Social Justice under the title Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen to spell out what Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan had in mind in their revolutionary new approaches to maximizing economic growth through economic justice.

This new paradigm has been built on the insights of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, who see that a strategy of “more of the same” must have catastrophic consequences for world civilization and that their own traditions provide the framework for peace through justice as the best solution. The regnant strategy today of peace through power has already claimed numerous victims even among its principal supporters.

Ironically, one of the principal victims of such a strategy of centralized global management is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who provided his own epitaph after his talk at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 28th, 2007. According to David Ignatius’s column, “The Blair He Could Have Been,” in the Washington Post of January 31, 2007, Blair lamented, “The West’s fine talk of democracy and freedom has little meaning if it is not anchored in a sense of justice. Without such bedrock values, the grand goals of the Atlantic Alliance are empty.”

Chapter Nine

Political Freedom in Muslim Practice

Unfortunately, the praxis or political reality of human rights in the Muslim world is a mirror image of Prime Minister Blair’s swan song about the practice of human rights by the West. This sad note introduces the practical aspects of political freedom and more generally of human rights in Islamdom.

The major issue in contemporary Muslim thought is the role of the state. Like human rights, the concept of the state is a relatively recent Western construct. It arose as a means to end the Thirty Years War at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 by accepting human power rather than God as the highest authority in human affairs. The state is a secular construct that recognizes the corporate or collectivist identity of its citizens as the basis of legitimate power. As I learned in the introductory course on international law at Harvard Law School, the state by definition has a monopoly of coercion, and its geographical jurisdiction extends as far as it can control more than fifty percent of the population in a given territory. This legitimizes the political principle of “might makes right,” which would seem to be inevitable once one rejects justice as a restraining principle.

What happens when radicals in any religion begin to talk about creating a religious state? In effect they are talking about substituting themselves for God. Whether this is to be a so-called Islamic State, or a Jewish State, or a Christian or Hindu state, makes no difference. The inevitable result must be the denial of human rights.

The fountain of such extremism is the paradigm of thought popularized by Syed Qutb. He was the Muslim Brotherhood’s equivalent of Lenin in the sense that he redirected toward absolutism the Sufi-like movement begun by his enlightened mentor, Hassan al Banna, who functioned perhaps as the equivalent of the Brotherhood’s Karl Marx. Qutb’s doctrine was embodied in his declaration that, “There is only one place on earth that can be called the House of Islam (dar al islam), and it is that place where an Islamic state is established and the shari’ah is the authority and God’s laws are observed. … The rest of the world is the House of War (dar al harb).”

Modern extremists may use different words, like dar al zulm, the land of evil, or dar al kufr, the land of those who are going to hell because they deliberately reject the truth, but the substance of their war is the same, namely, to invent and instigate a clash of civilizations and to declare a holy war with the slogan “no substitute for victory.”

Syed Qutb’s openly political paradigm of thought differs little from the openly religious paradigm of the radical puritanical reformers, whether anti-establishment like the Salafis in Saudi Arabia, or pro-establishment like the fascist Wahhabis. The ultimate aim of them all is the acquisition of absolute power here on earth. The basis of right versus wrong becomes the relativistic reduction of justice to one’s own narrow self-interest in a clash with everyone else, so that blowing up Jewish babies and oneself can be easily justified and even sanctified in the pursuit of a higher cause.

The modernist solution to felt injustice has always been to seek power. Failure in this pursuit can turn moderates into extremists, and failure to secure justice once one has grabbed power can generate still more extremism from the victims of the political quest.

Lord Acton declared that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This generalization is too abbreviated. The greedy quest for material power to the disadvantage of others corrupts more than its possession, because madness comes from the arrogance of believing that one can acquire absolute power and keep it. This applies to both economic and political power, especially when the addict pursues each form of power limitlessly in order to augment the other.

Failure in the impossible quest for absolute power redoubles the madness. Since it is in human nature to seek the absolute, the quest for material power can turn into a false god. As the utopias of the twentieth century confirm, false gods of whatever kind in the world are the primary source of evil.

Terrorism has arisen as the newest existential threat to civilization because the “terrorists” know that all the dominant paradigms of the twentieth century are bankrupt. In their hopeless rage they will not consider even the possibility of anything else, other than their own blind rampage of destruction. What they do not know is that they are creatures of this bankruptcy. They are part of the problem, not of the solution. Terrorists are products of Western cultural disintegration, even though they will die for the illusion that they are not.

The roots of terrorism predate the so-called “Islamic” phenomenon. This is brilliantly explained in Abdul Hakim Murad’s article, “Bombing without Moonlight: The Origins of Suicidal Terrorism.” In a companion article, entitled “The Mechanics of Terror,” in the Spring 2005 issue of Islamica, published in Jordan, Jibril Hambel writes: “The actual root cause is the real or imagined failure of a code of beliefs or set of social conditions, [which has produced] a moral/ethical/philosophical vacuum that self-styled reformers and modern-day prophets feel compelled to redress.”

This phenomenon can be observed during the last hundred years in a succession of failed ideologies, ranging from Communism, to Nazism, to apocalyptic Zionism and Wahhabi polytheism, to the more extreme forms of tribalistic Neo-Conservatism. The failure of movements for freedom and democracy without a higher framework of transcendent justice exposes their followers to the hollowness of their own values and to the contradictions in their own hopes. They resort to nihilistic violence in order to show commitment to the values they lack. Further failure only escalates the vicious circle.

Ignorance of the true solution taught by all the Prophets is why terrorists resort to terror and why their targets resort to terrorist counter-terrorism. They have no alternative but to destroy each other and themselves in the process, like scorpions in a bottle.

Chapter Ten

Deconstructing Pax Islamica

When President George W. Bush first took office, he called for a global Pax America, but was cautioned to replace this with Pax Universalis. Later he followed Henry Kissinger’s advice to avoid such utopian terms altogether until the world correlation of forces had prepared the way for a new international law conducive to such a goal. In his op ed position paper on August 12th, 2002, in the Washington Post, Kissinger abandoned his usual real politik by calling for an immediate invasion of Iraq specifically to introduce such a new international law.

Many Islamists in recent decades have called for an Islamic state, but they are referring to the so-called Islamization of specific states, not to the Islamization of the entire world. The most radical of all the Muslims, however, have never had any qualms about their call for a global Pax Islamica, which they call the khilafat. Most of them are former socialists and they are familiar with the Marxist doctrine that the dialectical forces of history will bring about the victory of the proletariat and the end of history. As converts to their unique sect among those who want to politicize Islam, these utopian extremists, most notably Osama bin Laden, believe that Allah has commissioned them to bring about the end of history through the imposition of a global Caliphate. Adopting the modern language of European secular humanism, Pan-Islamist extremists now call for a global “Islamic state” to be created through Muslim conquest of the world by a single ruler.

This issue of a global caliphate is not new in Islamdom. In fact, as a contentious issue it has never disappeared since it first surfaced more than a thousand years ago. The major issue is not whether there should be a universal or global caliphate but what it should be.

Ironically, the extremists’ chosen source for much of their extremism is Ibn Taymiya, the Hanbali jurist, who lived at the time of the Mongol invasion seven hundred years ago. He developed a sophisticated understanding about the Islamic doctrine of the khilafat that demolishes the extremists of his day and of ours. As a Sufi who opposed the extremism then spreading among the Sufis of his day, Ibn Taymiya was a political theorist who died in prison for opposing the extremism both of tyrants and of their opponents. He was in fact a model of those who both understand the sources of extremism and the means to counter it. His mission was to deconstruct extremist teachings doctrinally in order to marginalize their adherents.

One of his modern students, Naveed Shaykh, in his book The New Politics of Islam, writes rather poetically that extremism comes when pan-Islamists operationalize a unity of belief in a human community of monist monolithism rather than in a boundless love for all of God’s creation in a transcendent Islamic cosmopolis. Extremism comes when people substitute a political institution for themselves as the highest instrument and agent of God in the world, when they call for a return of the Caliphate in its imperial form embodied in the Ottoman dispensation. It comes when they call for what Shah Wali Allah of India in the 18th century called the khilafat dhahira or external and exoteric caliphate in place of the khilafat batina or esoteric caliphate formed by the spiritual heirs of the prophets, who are the sages, saints, and righteous scholars and are far removed from any political process.

In the late Abbasid period of classical Islam, according to Naveed Sheikh, “The political scientists of the day delegitimized both institutional exclusivism and, critically, centralization of political power by disallowing the theophanic descent of celestial sovereignty into any human institution.” In other words, they denied the ultimate sovereignty claimed by modern states since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which elevated states to the ultimate level of sovereignty, in place of the divine, thereby relegating religion to the periphery of public life or excluding it and with it morality altogether.

The late Abbasid scholars, faced with a gradual process of creeping despotism, denied the divine right not only of kings but of every human institution, and they condemned the worship of power and privilege that had brought corruption upon the earth. For insisting on this foundation principle of Islam, as detailed by Khalid Abou el-Fadl in his Conference of the Books, the greatest scholars throughout Muslim history were imprisoned, some for years and decades. This is precisely why Muslims traditionally have considered them to be great.

Ibn Taymiya, completed the process of deconstructing the ontological fatalism of caliphatic thought by restricting the role of the caliphate to what probably the greatest Islamic thinker of all time, Abu Hamid al Ghazali, had called an ummatic umbrella functioning only to protect the functional integrity of Islamic thought rather than to govern politically. Ibn Taymiya asserted that the unity of the Muslim community depended not on any symbolism represented by the Caliph, much less on any caliphal political authority, but on “confessional solidarity of each autonomous entity within an Islamic whole.” In other words, the Muslim umma or global community is a body of purpose based on worship of God. By contending that the monopoly of coercion that resides in political governance is not philosophically constituted, Ibn Taymiya rendered political unification and the caliphate redundant.

The very concept of an Islamic State and even of political Islam is a prime example of Westoxification, especially in its jihadic incarnation as the pursuit of justice through power and the pursuit of power eventually as an end in itself. By drawing religion into the pursuit of power such political Muslims preempt those who would bring the wisdom of higher religion into the public square. The very concept of political Islam reveals a Western mindset with a totalitarian leaning based on a level of tolerance that denies the very concept of human rights.


20. Crane, Robert Dickson, “The Vision of Communitarian Pluralism: The Conflict between State and Nation,, March 4, 2006. See also “Federalism: The Missing Arrow in the American Quiver,” February 13, 2006.

21. Withdrawn from publication in January 1969 when Nixon appointed Crane as Deputy Director of the National Security Council for Planning under Henry Kissinger.

22. See

23. Kurland, Norman G., The Abraham Federation: A New Framework for Peace in the Middle East, originally published in December 1978, updated and republished in Arab-American Affairs (now Middle East Policy), a publication of the Middle East Policy Council. Again updated and republished in Spring 1991,

24. Kelso, ibid, footnote 15 supra.

25. Curing World Poverty: The New Role of Property, John H. Miller, ed., Social Justice Review, St. Louis, MO., 1994, a compendium of articles from The Center for Economic and Social Justice, P. O. Box 40711, Washington, D.C. 20016,

26. Ashford, Robert and Shakespeare, Rodney, Binary Economics: The New Paradigm, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1999.

27. Kurland, Capital Homesteading, ibid, footnote 19 supra.

28. Sheikh, Naveed S., The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States, Routledge Curzon, London, 2002, 224 pages, reviewed by Crane in a review article of six related books under the title, “Taproot to Terrorism: The Loss of Transcendent Law in America and the Muslim World,” The Muslim World Book Review, Summer 2005, vol. 25, no. 4, pages 6-21.

29. El-Fadl, Khalid Abou, The Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam, University Press of America, Lanham, Md., 2001, see Chapter 59, “The Scholar’s Road.”

Source: The American Muslim at   posted June 13, 2007

Hate Sermons from the Pulpit

By Mike Ghouse, May 2, 2007

It is our duty to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate is one of the many sources of disrupting the peace in a society and it is our duty to track down the source of such hate and work on mitigating it. We have an obligation to maintain a balance in the society

We lose that balance and that elusive equilibrium is if we let hate mongers, hate sermons and hate lectures creep in our societies.

The Muslims have been diligently cleaning up the hate sermons from happening in their communities in the United States and Canada. I can recall one incident last year in Canada where one such alleged hate monger Yaseen Sheikh was not allowed to land in Canada and was sent right back to his home; The United Kingdom. The Muslims are making serious efforts to prevent radical preachers from making any speeches in their communities and their Mosques. I am sure some one slips by here and there, but the vigil is there and the guard is on. Islam is about bringing a balance to the society, and American Muslims are vigorously fighting to prevent the Mosque pulpit to ever go into the hands of hate generators.

Hate peddling is unfortunately human, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with religion, any religion.

As all the religions teach to overcome hate, here are some quotes about doing unto others;

Bahai: Lay not on any soul a load which ye would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for any one the things ye would not desire for yourselves. Writings of Baha'u'llah

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5, 1

Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:1

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. Analects 12:2

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. Mahabharata 5,1517

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah

Jain: "Living beings (souls) render services to one another" or in short "Live and let live."

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. Talmud, Shabbat 3id

Sikh: All humans are same and so we should treat them all the same – Guru Gobind Singh

Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. Tai Shang Kan Yin P'ien

Wicca: Harm None

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. Dadisten-I-dinik, 94, 5

As we pledge one nation under God with liberty and justice for all, we have to look into each other and look at ourselves, and lift ourselves up from the hate pit and come together on a level playing field of goodwill and generosity.

The business side of faith has thrived on ridiculing others faiths and manufacturing a devil out of thin air. There is a misplaced spirituality in operation; our faith is the best, because others aren’t. Wow, what logic! Arrogance and Spirituality are inversely proportional; one cannot be religious when there is an element of arrogance in it. Other faiths don’t have to be bad for mine to be good. My little daughter says if there is no negative selling how would the business of Church survive? How would you grow congregations and the monies that come with it? Shamefully hate and fear binds the people, even though much of it is manufactured. Who has the time to question? A majority of us do not really hate anyone, nor do we care for those sermons, we go there as a social event and often honoring the courtesy of invitation. However, the extremists among us cash on it, they know what binds us.

It is the human weakness that allows the propagation of hate, and we shamelessly abuse our holy texts to justify human killing and destruction of the world be it Armageddon, Jihad, Promised land or some such notion to satisfy one’s disruptive mindset. Whether it happens in Church, Mosque, Temple, Synagogue or any place of worship, the silent majority puts up with it and does not speak out. We go to the place of worship to rid ourselves of our sins – the elements of ill-will, malice, hate, anger and other entrapments. The pulpit has become a loading dock for malice and incitement to look down upon others who hold a different view.

Anya Cardell writes ( “This follows on the lecture last week by Steven Emerson at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, attended and warmly received by about 500, entitled ‘The Terrorists Living among us’. Both Pipes and Emerson have long histories of virulent anti-Muslim efforts. Pipes invented what he calls ‘Sudden Jihad Syndrome’, which he defines as the sudden change of any normal appearing, apparently peaceful Muslim, who may turn on a dime into a radical terrorist. …so I'm not going to cite right now a bunch of similarly appalling assertions from Pipes, Emerson, and their cronies--but they are truly terrifying, adding to the 'open season' mentality currently profiling, stereotyping, smearing, and generalizing all Muslims. I have met the families of innocent men who were murdered in the hate-backlash of 9/11, and know that there are all-too-real consequences of such hate and fear-mongering. “Additionally, a requisite for war is demonizing and dehumanizing the Other, so that we can shrug, rationalize or justify what we call 'collateral damage', and how innocents are caught in the crosshairs or ensnared in big nets, (roundups, detentions, etc.), all in the name of 'security'.”

Should our places of Worship offer space for hate sermons or for bridge building lectures? I hope the sanctity of the synagogue is not violated by the Emerson, Pipes and his likes and no one ought to be allowed to preach hate towards other people.

It is in our interest and the interest of public safety that the sermons delivered at places of worship fill our hearts with love, generosity and goodwill and build bridges for a safe and peaceful nation.

What if we make our speeches in the place of worship a public record? To keep peace, law and order in our country, we need to consider hate speech as a crime. The speech that would permanently place wedges between our communities injects distrust and destroys the concept of one nation under God.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his Blogs: and . He can be reached at Mike lives in Carrollton with his family and has been a Dallasite since 1980.

Lying Us Into War, Again

by Charley Reese

The drumbeat for war against Iran has begun again, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, and the usual pro-Israel crowd. Lieberman seems to be under the impression that the U.S. can bomb Iran and not get into a full-fledged war.
Well, we know all about cakewalks and how they turn into long, bloody and dreary marches. We learned nothing from Vietnam, and apparently some of the people have learned nothing from Iraq, now a cakewalk war that has lasted longer than World War II, though not with the same intensity and mass.
If the senator, who seems to be one of those who loves war as long as he doesn't have to fight it, really believes that we can attack Iran without Iranian retaliation, then he's naive. If he knows better, he's a liar, and to lie the American people into a second war before the other lied-into war in Iraq is even over is despicable. He should be shunned by all decent people.
I don't see how any honest man can believe that Iran is a threat to the United States or its neighbors. Iran has not invaded anyone in the past 100 years. Iran has from the beginning insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, and there has been no evidence – I repeat, no evidence – to the contrary. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty explicitly authorizes countries to enrich uranium. In other words, Iran has not done anything illegal.
Iran has no intercontinental missiles, and the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons is Israel. Please note that the United States flatly refuses to endorse the idea of a nuclear-free Middle East. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has refused to sign it. Iran admits international inspectors. Israel flatly refuses to allow international inspectors. The only country in today's Middle East with weapons of mass destruction and a history of invading and occupying other people's countries is Israel.
As for Iran's alleged threat to "wipe Israel off the map," that is propaganda based on a mistranslation. Nobody in Iran has ever threatened to attack Israel militarily. The accurate quotes from Iranians have been simply that Israel as a Zionist state will eventually collapse, just as the Soviet Union as a communist state did. Iranian officials have even explicitly said they have no desire or intention of attacking Israel.
You should ask yourself, What is the real motive of people who deal in lies? What is the real agenda of people who wish to paint Iran as a threat to the world? (Remember what a threat they said Iraq was?) Why, if the United States is really concerned about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, has it steadfastly refused to endorse the idea of a nuclear-free Middle East – something Iran and the Arab countries have proposed time and again?
Finally, of course, there is the matter of deterrence. Deterrence worked against the Soviet Union's 30,000 nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Anybody who says Iran would not be deterred from using a handful of nuclear weapons – assuming it even developed them – is a fool or a liar.
Furthermore, Iran would gain nothing by attacking Israel, the U.S. or Europe. Americans might disagree with how Iranians choose to run their country, but that doesn't mean that Iran's leaders are insane. They are, in fact, intelligent and well-educated.
As for the United States' latest claim that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban, I simply don't believe it. The U.S. government has lied and lied to the American people. It has zero credibility. Iran is a Shi'ite country; the Taliban are a fanatical Sunni sect. Iran volunteered its assistance during the initial American attack on Afghanistan. Why would Iran suddenly change its mind?

Even after 40 years, Abba Eban’s great fraud defines the official version of the 1967 War

Born Aubrey Soloman Meir in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1915, “Abba Eban” would earn a reputation as Israel’s most respected diplomat and statesman. Yet this British-educated gentleman would also set down the false history of the 1967 War that made Israeli aggression seem justifiable. Eban’s dissembling speech to the Security Council on June 6, 1967, was a masterpiece of rhetorical fraud that established the twin myths of Israeli vulnerability and Arab provocation. So convincing was the speech that its message is still invoked today to rationalize the Occupation and justify the creeping theft of Palestine.

Canadian Arab News
June 7, 2007
Some people make history; some people invent it. Abba Eban falls into the latter category. As Israel’s foreign minister at the time of the 1967 War, Eban delivered a speech to the Security Council that must rank as the most erudite, sophisticated fraud ever heard by the world body.
He did nothing less than invent for our consumption the twin myths of Egyptian aggression and Israeli self-defence, all the while intoning the requisite verities of peace and international law. Eban stood history on its head and the non-Arab world was only too willing to embrace his dissembling and deceit.
Eban was an easy man to like, respect and believe, because he was cultured and thoroughly Western. He was one of us. Born Aubrey Solomon Meir, in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1915 Eban was educated in Britain and spent much of his adult life in politics. Among his numerous accomplishments are:
• Israel’s first permanent delegate to the United Nations (1949-1959);
• Ambassador to the United States (1950-1959); and
• Israeli foreign minister (1966-1974).
Compared to the brutal gangsterism of Begin, Sharon, Shamir, Olmert, and Netanyahu, Eban stands like a colossus of conspicuous decency. Unfortunately, the comparison is purely relative. For all of his dovishness and diplomatic acumen Eban was still a zionist, and therefore an apologist for aggression and a spokesman for an outlaw state.
As the world marks the 40th anniversary of the 1967 War, Eban’s looking-glass reality is given new life as the zionist media dutifully reinforce the founding myths of the war. Even today, with the benefit of the Internet and hindsight, those who point out the errors of fact and tendentious arguments in Eban’s speech stand little chance of a fair hearing, if they get a hearing at all.
If Israel’s illegal Occupation of Palestine is to end, as it must, Eban’s speech must be subjected to honest analysis, because a polite liar is still a liar, and the fruit of this particular lie is the genocide of Palestine.
Eban’s speech runs more than 4,800 words and can be viewed here: For brevity’s sake, I will focus on two key themes.
Israel’s existence was threatened.
Abba Eban:
“Two days ago…an army, greater than any force ever assembled in history in Sinai, had massed against Israel’s southern frontier. Egypt had dismissed the United Nations forces which symbolized the international interest in the maintenance of peace in our region. Nasser had provocatively brought five infantry divisions and two armoured divisions up to our very gates; 80,000 men and 900 tanks were poised to move.
“…As time went on, there was no doubt that our margin of general security was becoming smaller and smaller. Thus, on the morning of 5 June, when Egyptian forces engaged us by air and land, bombarding the villages of Kissufim, Nahal-Oz and Ein Hashelosha we knew that our limit of safety had been reached, and perhaps passed. In accordance with its inherent right of self-defence as formulated in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Israel responded defensively in full strength. Never in the history of nations has armed force been used in a more righteous or compelling cause.”
First, Egypt’s president Gamel Abdel Nasser did not “provocatively” bring five infantry divisions and two armoured divisions up to “[Israel’s] very gates.” Eban’s doom-and-gloom scenario is propaganda, as Israel’s generals and politicians later confessed, e.g.:
Mordechai Bentov, cabinet minister: “This story about the danger of extermination has been a complete invention and has been blown up a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.” (cited in Le Monde, June 3, 1972)
Menachem Begin, leader of Gahal Party: “In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” (cited in New York Times, Aug. 21, 1982.)
Gen. Matityahu Peled: “To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Zahal [Israeli army].” (cited in Ha’aretz, March 19, 1972.)
The second fallacy, related to the first, is the idea that Israel’s use of armed force was the most righteous and compelling in history. Leaving aside the sanctimonious hyperbole, Eban makes no mention of Israel’s repeated border aggressions against Syria that precipitated the conflict, or that Egypt and Syria had signed a mutual defence pact the previous year.
Israel precipitated the 1967 War by staging border aggressions against Syria and seizing Syrian land in the demilitarized zone between the two countries. From 1948 to 1967, Syria reported more than 1,000 armed clashes, and in a candid 1976 interview, Moshe Dayan admitted that Israel provoked 80 percent of them:
“We would send a tractor to plow some [disputed] area... and we knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was.... I made a mistake in allowing the conquest of the Golan Heights. As defense minister I should have stopped it because the Syrians were not threatening us at the time.”
Therefore, Nasser’s provocative [sic] build-up on the Sinai had nothing to do with Israel, per se, but with the need to come to Syria’s aid. Moreover, and this point is never mentioned, Nasser had reluctantly sent 100,000 of his best troops to fight in Yemen’s civil war and was in no position to start hostilities.
Nasser did evict the UN peacekeeping force, and he did close the Red Sea port of Eilat, but these were marginal actions, as Israel well knew. Nevertheless, Eban blew them out of proportion and repeatedly invoked Eilat as justification for invasion: “There was in this wanton act a quality of malice. For surely the closing of the Strait of Tiran gave no benefit whatever to Egypt except the perverse joy of inflicting injury on others. It was an anarchic act, because it showed a total disregard for the law of nations…”
Israel’s “right to exist”
Abba Eban:
“The central point remains the need to secure an authentic intellectual recognition by our neighbours of Israel’s deep roots in the Middle Eastern reality. There is an intellectual tragedy in the failure of Arab leaders to come to grips, however reluctantly, with the depth and authenticity of Israel’s roots in the life, the history, the spiritual experience and the culture of the Middle East.… There are not two categories of States. The United Arab Republic, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon - not one of these has a single ounce or milligram of statehood which does not adhere in equal measures to Israel itself.”
Eban is reinforcing the Israel-as-victim myth, which is still heard to day as “picking on Israel.” Of course, the Palestinians get no mention because at this time they are not even deemed to exist. Note also how Israel’s equivalence with other states is merely asserted, not proven. The reason is simple—Israel’s roots have no depth or authenticity—it is an artificial, un-Semitic, Western creation born of guilt, terrorism and blackmail. It has no place in the culture of the Middle East; it is a foreign body that is destroying the very culture of which Eban claims it is a part.
The real perversity of Eban’s speech is his genteel hypocrisy. He condemned Nasser for violating the law of nations, but says nothing of Israel’s transgressions against Palestine or Syria. He spoke of the equality of sovereignty, but made no mention of Israel’s conditional admission to the UN or of its refusal to finalize its borders. He spoke of peace, yet said nothing about Israel being responsible for breaking the peace.
Less than two weeks after he addressed the Security Council, Eban gave a more accurate account of Israel’s contempt for international law: “If the General Assembly were to vote by 121 votes to 1 in favor of ‘Israel’ returning to the armistice lines [pre June 1967 borders] ‘Israel’ would refuse to comply with the decision.” (New York Times, June 19, 1967.)
Eban seemed so reasonable, educated and Western that to disbelieve him was unthinkable. Now, we must do more than think about it—we must recognize Eban as an artful liar, and engender public discussion about the real cause of the 1967 War

Socio-Cultural Empowerment Of Indian Muslims

By Yoginder Sikand
19 June, 2007
(Paper presented at a conference on the Sachar Committee Report in Kochi, 16th-17th June, 2007 organized by the Al-Ameen Educational Trust and the Forum for Faith and Fraternity)
I have been asked to speak on the subject of the social and cultural empowerment of Muslims in India. This is, of course, a very broad topic and one cannot do justice to it in the course of a short presentation. Rather than explore the reasons of Muslim disempowerment, about which much has already been written, I think it would be more useful to focus on certain practical measures that could be undertaken in this regard. I will deliberately refer to the crucial question of political empowerment only in passing as this is beyond the scope of this presentation.
An important point to consider in discussing the question of Muslim social and cultural empowerment is that of the internal diversity among Muslims, which makes it difficult to make any but the most broad generalizations. These diversities are of various types-class caste, sect, language, region, ethnicity, gender and so on. Often, discussions about Muslim social empowerment miss out, whether deliberately or otherwise, these internal differences and variations, based on a misleading and untenable assumption of a pan-Indian Muslim monolith. It is striking to note how this notion of a Muslim monolith (like that of the equally misleading notion of a Hindu monolith) informs the discourse of both Hindu and Muslim right-wing forces and of the state. It was this same misplaced notion of Hindus and Muslims being two separate, monolithic and undifferentiated communities that paved the way for the Partition of India, which benefited the ruling elites of India and Pakistan, but made matters much worse for the masses, Hindu as well as Muslim. It must be noted that demands for resources or empowerment based on this notion of a Hindu or Muslim monolith works essentially to promote the interests of the elites, the so-called high caste, upper class Hindus and Muslims. Thus, for instance, the demand by some Muslim elites for reservations for all Muslims, based on this untenable assumption of a single Muslim monolith, can be seen as reflecting the interests of these elites, for it is obvious that such reservation would benefit essentially them, leaving out in the cold the vast majority of the Muslim community. This is similar in its implications to the case of Hindutva discourse, where the equally untenable myth of a Hindu monolith is used as a means to protect and promote the interests of so-called high caste and high class Hindus, and to deny other Hindus-the vast majority-their rights. Hence, in discussing the issue of the empowerment of the Muslim community, one must desist from speaking in terms of a Muslim monolith, and focus particularly on the question of the empowerment of the marginalized sections within the Muslim community, who, in many parts of India, happen to form the vast majority of the community, most of them being of indigenous so-called low caste background.
It is a striking comment on the existing Muslim leadership that often their demands are couched in terms of a Muslim monolith, rarely referring to the specific problems of these marginalized sections, in whose marginalization, historically as well as now, Muslim elites, in addition of course to Hindu elites and the state, have had a crucial role to play. Muslim politics, particularly in north India, has been largely the politics of symbolism, with political elites raising such issues as the question of Urdu, the Muslim Personal Law, the Aligarh Muslim University, the Babri Masjid and so on. One can perhaps speak of some sort of complicity here with right-wing Hindu political elites, with both having a vested interest in focusing on such communally divisive issues to boost their own political fortunes. These issues are not unimportant in themselves. The point, however, is that because these issues have overwhelmed north Indian Muslim politics, the massive and growing social, educational and economic problems of the Muslim masses have been ignored, deliberately or otherwise.
This calls for the need for a new sort of grass-root based community leadership from among the marginalized sections of the Muslims, which can go beyond the symbolic politics that only further promote communal polarization. This new leadership would focus on bread-and-butter issues that affect these sections as well as other similarly marginalized sections among other communities, such as Dalits, Backward Castes and Adivasis. Efforts at uniting these groups are underway, although, Hindu and Muslim elites do not regard this with any enthusiasm, for obviously it undermines their claims to be authoritative spokesmen and leaders of their communities. This means that the empowerment of the marginalized sections of the Muslims demands a dual process of democratization: gaining their rightful share within the larger Indian society as well as within the Muslim community itself.

Now, leaving aside the complex world of politics, a few practical suggestions with regard to the issue of cultural empowerment. In this regard, it is crucial to note that Muslims in India are not a cultural monolith, although they share a common commitment to Islam, but even here one needs to take into account the diverse interpretations and expressions of Islam, as reflected, for instance, in the number of different maslaks, many of which define themselves in opposition to each other. There has been a tendency among Muslim elites in north India to seek to impose their so-called ashraf feudal culture and the Urdu language on the rest of the Indian Muslim population. Even in north India itself, highly Persianised Urdu, which is sought to be presented as the standard form of Urdu, has always been an elitist language, historically the language of some north Indian Muslim and Hindu elites. It was never the language of the Muslim or Hindu
masses, who spoke and continue to speak in various regional dialects, incorrectly incorporated as Urdu or Hindi. The elitist strategy of projecting north Indian ashraf culture as the culture of all Indian Muslims is, in fact, no different from similar efforts on the part of north Indian Hindu elites to impose Brahmincial culture and a highly Sanskritised Hindi on the rest of the Hindu population, or what the Pakistani establishment sought to do in the erstwhile East Pakistan with disastrous consequences. Even the state has sought to present Urdu as a particularly Muslim language, which is not the case. Efforts to preserve and promote Urdu are surely welcome, but it must be remembered that it cannot and must not be treated as a Muslim language or as the language of all the Muslims of India. This will only further reduce the chances of survival of the language. It would also keep Muslims confined to their ghettos, unable to compete in the job market because of lack of competence in other languages. It would also further fortify barriers between Muslims and others, which can only further strengthen the deep-rooted stereotypes that others have about Muslims and Islam.
In this regard, the emergence of a number of Muslim publications in languages other than Urdu is a welcome development. This can help promote communication with other communities, which, even from the point of view of explaining Islam to others, is a crucial requirement. It can also help strengthen regional identities and cultures, in which Muslims, Hindus and others can participate together, thus making for greater and more positive inter-community interaction. North Indian Muslims have much to learn from their counterparts in Kerala in this regard, where Muslims, Hindus, Christian, Dalits and others all share a common linguistic and cultural heritage, which has helped in fostering fairly cordial inter-community relations.
The democratic revolution demands that the cultures of marginalized communities be celebrated and promoted. These often contain rich symbolic resources that reflect the pains and anguish of the oppressed and their quest for emancipation, as well as a symbolic critique of the culture of elites that is used to legitimize their oppression. The retrieval of the cultures of the oppressed or subalterns is happening today in the case of the Dalits and Adivasis. In the Muslim case, this is less marked, for various reasons, but is reflected in some recent efforts by so-called low caste Muslim groups, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to celebrate their histories and heroes, commemorating the liberative spirit of Islam, which, they argue, has been sought to be watered down by Muslim elites. The tradition of numerous Sufi saints who bitterly critiqued political and religious elites for their oppression of the poor, and whose understanding of Islam was ecumenical and broad, reflecting a concern for all of God's creatures, and not just Muslims alone, was also a part of this broader subaltern tradition. This crucial social aspect of India's rich and varied Sufi traditions, of the non-elite variety in particular, needs to be highlighted, in order to evolve a popular culture that celebrates religious pluralism and at the same time speaks out against oppression and hegemony, be it of the state, or of Hindu and Muslim elites, and so on. This can play a vita role in the socio-cultural empowerment of the marginalized, Muslims as well as others. In this regard, it is pertinent to note how this tradition has been considerably bruised by the ritualisation of popular Sufism, with the transformation of Sufi shrines from centres of instruction and provision for the needy to centres of mediation, being controlled by a class of elites who claim to be religious intermediaries.
Indian Muslim history, as is taught in schools and madrasas, and as is reflected in books on the subject by both Muslim and other scholars, continues to be highly elitist, and, incidentally, rather north Indian centric. This, too, is an issue that needs to be addressed in the process of promoting the cultural empowerment of the marginalized sections of the Muslims. Books on the subject of Indian Muslim history inevitably focus almost entirely on Muslim rulers, Sufis and ulema, almost all of whom were from the so-called higher castes-Sayyeds, Shaikhs, Mughals and Pathans, who form only a relatively small minority of the Indian Muslim population. There are hardly any books available on the literally hundreds of indigenous Muslim communities, mainly those of so-called low caste background. This, too, must change, if we are serious about a promoting democratic culture that is biased in favour of the oppressed. This democratization of Muslim historiography is as necessary as the democratization of the official Hindu historical canon, which, like its Muslim counterpart, is sternly elitist. Democratising Indian Muslim history writing would also serve a very necessary political purpose-to highlight the fact that the so-called period of 'Muslim rule' in India, which is routinely talked about both by Muslim and Hindu elites, was hardly that. It was actually the rule of Muslim elites, almost entirely of foreign extraction, in collaboration with sections of the Hindu elites. The vast majority of the Muslims, of indigenous extraction, were as marginalized and oppressed by these elites as their Hindu counterparts from the so-called low castes were. Making this point in today's context of communal rivalry is extremely significant in order to counter the political projects of Hindu as well as Muslim right-wing forces.
In north India, as some surveys have shown, Muslims from so-called low caste background do not have adequate representation in various Muslim organizations. This is an issue that needs to be seriously addressed. Demands for their adequate representation are sometimes dismissed as
'conspiracies' to divide the Muslims on the basis of caste, which is said to be an un-Islamic institution, but I believe this argument is untenable, reflecting a desire to preserve the status quo. In actual fact, genuine and lasting unity can only be promoted if such organizations, particularly at their leadership level, are more socially inclusive in terms of class and caste. Keeping certain social groups out or not providing them adequate representation, whether consciously or unconsciously, can only further reinforce Muslim disunity.
In this regard, the Muslim media has a very crucial role to play and it would be interesting to do a survey on what space they devote to the bread-and-butter issues of the Muslim poor. I do not suppose think the conclusions of such a survey would be very heartening. Related to this is the lack of serious empirical research on the marginalized sections of the Muslim community. This, too, reflects a certain lack of concern or indifference on the part of large sections of the Muslim elite towards the crucial social and economic problems of the Muslim masses. There is, to my mind, just one institution in the whole of India, the Institute of Objective Studies in New Delhi, that sponsors such research, although the quality of its research output leaves much to be desired. Why, one must ask, did we have to wait for the government-appointed Sachar Committee to produce a detailed report on the social and economic marginalization of Muslims? Why have Muslim organizations not been doing this sort of research, although this is crucial for planning for practical intervention as well as for lobbying with the state and working with NGOs? It is striking that while there are literally thousands of institutions in India for Islamic Studies, there is hardly any institution focusing on Indian Muslim Studies, on the social, educational and economic conditions of Muslims. This reflects the way in which Muslim elites view the priorities of the community and their relative neglect of the manifold problems of the Muslim masses.
Promoting empirical research on marginalized sections of the Muslim community, and awareness-building, mobilisation and lobbying based on this, is essential in empowering them socially as well as culturally. I think the notion that an ideal career is that of a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, or, now, a computer scientist or a business manager, needs to be challenged, and more Muslim youth need to go in for higher studies and careers in journalism, the liberal arts, humanities and the social sciences, to focus in their work particularly on marginalized sections of the community. There is a pressing need for the setting up of voluntary agencies to work among the Muslim poor. While there are literally thousands of madrasas in India, and crores of rupees are spent on fancy mosques, the number of Muslim NGOs which are really doing sincere and constructive work for the educational and social empowerment of the marginalized sections of the Muslims is relatively meagre. Muslim organizations must make demands on the state for adequate state investment in Muslim areas. In addition, however, efforts must be made to mobilize the internal resources of the community for the empowerment of the marginalized. In this regard, there needs to be rethinking of the best possible use of zakat funds, most of which now go to madrasas. The standard charity-based approach has to give way to seeking to seeking to empower the poor. There is also a serious need for working on the issue of waqfs and dargahs and exploring possibilities for increasing their revenues and using these for the poor. This also calls for democratic management of the waqf boards and dargah committees.
Another important issue in the context of the empowerment of the marginalised sections among the Muslims is that of madrasa reforms. The vast majority of madrasa students come from these sections of Muslim society. The on-going debate on madrasa curricular reforms needs to be taken further and efforts to include 'modern' subjects need to be expanded. In addition, students must be familiarized with the world around them and with contemporary affairs. This will enable them to play a more constructive and socially engaged role in their capacity of would-be religious specialists. This will also help widen their career options and facilitate their joining colleges and universities after they graduate.
The rigid dualism that characterizes Muslim education, between the ulema and 'modern' educated Muslims, must be narrowed down and efforts need to be made to promote greater dialogue and interaction between the two to help in the process of the empowerment of the marginalized sections of the Muslim community. In this regard, I would like to cite the instance of a group of Muslim activists, mainly retired government officers, in Bangalore which I recently came across. This group goes every Friday to various mosques in the city and, after the imam reads the Arabic khutba, they deliver sermons on the importance of education and also on the salience of the findings of the Sachar Committee report. After the prayer gets over, there is a question and answer session, where people ask questions and advice is given on how to form local groups, solve local problems and access various government schemes. Another such interesting example is that of a group of ulema in Bangalore, who are now doing a course in English, Computer Applications and Social Sciences. They have got together to prepare and publish Friday khutbas in Urdu that relate religious prescriptions to the need for education, health provision and other forms of social service.
Further in this regard, it would be useful if arrangements can be made for madrasa managers and ulema, particularly from the younger generation, to visit Christian seminaries and learn from their example. There, would-be Christian priests learn not only about their own religion, but also about other religions, as well as about social work and social activism. Perhaps these subjects and skills could be included in the madrasa curriculum as well. I also think that there is much that madrasas and other Muslim organisations in the rest of India can learn from the Kerala example, where Muslim organizations are much better organized and socially engaged. It would serve a valuable purpose if arrangements could be made for Muslim social activists and younger ulema from other parts of India, who wish to work for the empowering the Muslim poor, to visit various Muslim institutions in Kerala to see the very interesting and creative work that they are doing and to learn from their example. The somehow deeply-rooted notion that north India must lead and south India must follow is completely mistaken and there is much that the south Indian example holds for north Indian Muslims to learn from.
Linked to this is the need for developing alternate understandings of Islamic theology and jurisprudence that are rooted in and creatively responsive to the Indian situation of religious pluralism, caste, class and gender oppression and the fact of Muslims being a minority in India. This needs to be reflected in the madrasa curriculum as well. Such progressive understandings of religion can play a crucial role in addressing the lived realities and concerns of the marginalized, irrespective of community. Clearly, understandings of religion, no matter what religion, that are exclusivist and insensitive to the local context, particularly that of oppression, betray the genuine core of true spirituality.
My last point relates to intra-community and inter-community relations. It is obvious that the empowerment of the marginalized sections among the Muslims requires an atmosphere of harmonious intra- and inter-community relations. It is striking to note in this regard the sharp inter-maslak divisions and strife that are promoted by certain Muslim institutions, publishing houses, ulema groups and madrasas. It is equally striking to note the absence of any organized dialogue work to bring together ulema of different maslaks to enable them to work together in a spirit of ecumenism. I think this is a serious issues that urgently needs to be addressed.
On the inter-community relations front, obviously Hindu-Muslim strife hurts the marginalized sections of the Muslims the most and so for their progress and empowerment communal harmony is indispensable. In this regard, the state and Hindu organizations and activists have a crucial role to play. But so do Muslims. The ulema need to be sensitized to the issue and need of inter-faith dialogue and undertake suitable efforts in this regard. There is an urgent need to promote inter-religious dialogue, and in this regard to go beyond the present limited form of dialogue at the level of religious doctrines between religious specialists-ulema and pundits-which, although important, is clearly inadequate. Often, such dialogue is promoted simply by missionary motives or in order to defend one's beliefs against those of others. Generally, such dialogue at the level of theology stumbles after a point because each religion, as interpreted by its religious orthodoxy, has certain non-negotiable fundamentals. Hence, dialogue efforts must go beyond simply theological exchange, which remains limited to a small religious elite . Dialogue needs to be extended beyond the narrow sphere of religious specialists to become more democratic and socially inclusive, include people from different walks of life, particularly social activists and media persons from different religious backgrounds.
Inter-community dialogue should go beyond talking about one's religion to focus on the possibilities of joint efforts to work for social issues of common concern. This is the dialogue of social action, which moves beyond mere theological exchange and polemics. There is an urgent need for many more Muslims to be involved in social movements on issues that are not limited just to the Muslim community, but, rather, are of much wider concern, such as the environmental movement or the struggle against so-called globalization and against caste, class and gender oppression. The obsession with issues only concerning the Muslims is, I feel, very stifling and also counter-productive from the point of view of the Muslim masses. So, too, is the tendency to be self-righteous, to ignore the serious need for introspection, to blame others for all one's ills and to remain silent when, in some situations, non-Muslims suffer at the hands of Muslims.
Of course there are several other things that must be done for the empowerment of the marginalized sections of the Muslim community, including, particularly, women. I will not go into this because much has already been said and written about this, including in the recommendations of the Sachar Committee Report. What I have presented here are some stray and rather disjointed thoughts for your consideration and I only hope that this would enthuse at least some people here to seriously think of working on these issues.