Monday, April 30, 2007

Aging Muslim Communities

My maternal Grand father said between attending weddings, funerals and visiting the sick, we will be more realistic about life. It brings humility and shaves off the vain-ness in us - It is indeed effective and brings about peace and freedom to us. Try it, you will feel blessed.
Mike Ghouse
Aging Muslim Communities
By Claudia Gaspar, april 30, 2007

An article published in the New York Times ' U.S. Muslims Confront Taboo on Nursing Homes' (June 13, 2006) exposed a fractured aspect of our contemporary society that afflicts all people disregarding of their religion: what to do with the elderly, sick, permanently disabled elements in a hectic society like the American ?

This poses a deep reflection on how we deal with our own limitations and confront the exactly we reject most : our own decaying and the final process, death.

The tradition tells us after Abraham circumcized himself, God came to fulfill the commandment of soothing Abraham's period of discomfort. The Talmud (Jewish oral law) states that a person who visits the sick removes a sixtieth of his illness.

Caring for the sick must become institutionalized in the Muslim community. Many communities had special societies which took responsibility for providing health care for the needy. These societies must be available to any community member or stranger who needed help.

Nursing homes and hospitals alternative worship services to elderly, sick and would ensue new liturgical forms to be used in alternative services at mosques and prayers' meetings.

Here is where Muslim Chaplaincy Service comes in to provide pastoral care, counseling, visitation and crisis intervention for Muslims in general.


Pastoral care, counseling and visitation are provided to patients and their families by community imans and volunteers at hospitals. Ongoing educational seminars could be offered to hospital personnel and chaplains to guide them in better meeting the needs of Muslim patients at their facilities.

Nursing Homes

Friday and holiday programming and bedside visitation must be provided by trained volunteers and congregational imans at nursing homes. The frequency of Friday programming depends on the number of residents and their level of acuity. Imans or trained volunteers could advise and counsel families on nursing home placements.

Caring for the sick must become institutionalized in the Muslim community. Many communities had special societies which took responsibility for providing health care for the needy. These societies must be available to any community member or even a stranger who needed help.

The mission of nursing home/hospital healing service is to visit and provide comfort to the sick and their families. No member of the community should be lonely, isolated, forgotten or abandoned because of illness, infirmities or advanced in age.

Reaching out with open arms, a warm heart and an understanding spirit, we make a commitment to share their suffering. As we nourish their spirits, offer comfort, friendship and consolation, we must bring a sense of wholeness and connection to the Muslim community, repairing and healing our world.

Many people in the Muslim communities are finding more spiritual, personal and innovative ways of experiencing their faith. This comes at a time when religious observers say the country appears to be on a spiritual quest. Guided meditations at the beginning of adult Qu'ran classes. Friday service in a study lounge where worship would includes lively singing and swaying to the music of guitar, bass, tambourines and drums. This will be a renaissance in which nursing homes and hospitals will have an important role in transforming the way we see our communities.

Jews and Christians use to read the Psalms but Muslims can start thinking about an easy to understand prayers' book with dua'as and also selected ayats translated into the local language in order they can be easily understood. A contemporary melody could be offered as an option to the traditional one.

Healing services would help to trigger Muslim Renewal Movement, a colorful tapestry of matching, contrasting, clashing, and original threads representing Islamic’s diverse history and denominations. Instead of holding services in the larger traditional mosques or holy places, a Muslim Renewal group would recite, chant, and sing primarily Muslim prayers in smaller, intimate worship settings. Many of these small worship groups could are unaffiliated with any trend inside Islam.

Claudia Gaspar writes from Brazil about Islam highlighting major contributions of Islamic philosophers.

June 13, 2006

U.S. Muslims Confront Taboo on Nursing Homes


BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — As a founder of the growing Shiite Muslim community here, Hussein Walji oversaw the building of the area's first mosque. He directed construction of its youth center, and followers hailed him as a visionary for adding an auditorium for ecumenical functions like the M&M picnic for Muslims and Methodists.

But even family members find Mr. Walji's latest expansion uncomfortably American: he is developing plans for an assisted living and nursing complex in this Minneapolis suburb.

"I could never do it," said Mohamed Remtula, Mr. Walji's brother-in-law, his ailing mother at his side in his living room as he and Mr. Walji discussed the planned complex. "It just is not in our culture."

Such uneasy discussions are taking place in Islamic enclaves around the country as more families try to reconcile religious teachings on caring for elders with the modern realities of their hectic American lives.

Muslim leaders from Florida to California are eager for a successful approach to the issue. But early efforts have been a tough sell. Sajda Khan and her husband, Rahmat, opened Fonthill Gardens, a six-bed assisted living home in Hawthorne, Calif., for the Los Angeles area's aging Muslim population. They found a contractor to provide halal meats, included a prayer room and made enthusiastic presentations to area mosques. A year later they have cared for two Christians and one Buddhist, but no Muslims.

"People feel that others will criticize them," said Mrs. Khan, who is from Pakistan. "You know, 'So and so left her mother in a facility, and now look at her looking fashionable at the mall.' It's very frustrating."

For generations, immigrant groups have grappled with the American concept of housing for the elderly, tailoring it to meet their ethnic, cultural and religious needs. But for many Muslims, the idea of placing parents in facilities is still unthinkable, seen as a violation of a Koranic obligation to care for one's elderly relatives.

"This change will be difficult, but it is inevitable," said Mr. Walji, 54, who is also president of the North American Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities Organization, an association of mosques in the United States and Canada. "Someone has to make the first move." If families are being forced to consider outside care, he reasoned, having a facility affiliated with the mosque might ease the pain of the decision.

In Ohio, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo approved a proposal in May to develop elder housing near its mosque.

The Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit is establishing a program to help the area's Muslim and Arab population address end-of-life issues.

"Our immigrant Muslim populations are totally unprepared to deal with this," said Dr. Hasan Shanawani, a critical care specialist who is starting the program. "We talk about respect for our parents, but in the name of love and tradition we are often neglecting our loved ones. We have to accept that there are some things we just can't do on our own."

The need for skilled care outside the home is, for an increasing number of Muslims, an unavoidable passage in the immigrant experience. Like many other American families, first- and second-generation adult siblings in Muslim families are often spread out around the country, struggling to balance the demands of dual-income marriages, work and children. Medical advances have enabled people to live longer, but often with chronic conditions that require more care than can easily be provided at home.

The Koran does not directly deal with how to care for aging parents. But prophetic teachings emphasize children's responsibility to care for parents as they were cared for as infants. Traditionally, families and religious leaders have interpreted this as a duty to care for parents at home.

"Yes, it is a mandate to take care of one's parents, but it is not explained how to do that," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an organization of mosques. "You can keep your parents at home and not truly be caring for them, if you cannot meet their needs."

Other traditional teachings have been updated to meet contemporary needs, Mr. Syed said. Day care and baby-sitting help, also once thought of as a violation of religious obligation to family, are now accepted by many working Muslim families.

Mr. Walji's brother-in-law is not the only member of the family to have to consider the issue of elder care. Two years ago, Mr. Walji's wife's family made the tough decision to move an elderly aunt, with congestive heart failure, diabetes, leg problems and no children, into a local nursing facility.

Sitting on her bed recently at the Maranatha Care Center in a neighboring suburb, three doting nieces at her side, the aunt, Zera Suchedina, said with a resigned nod that the place was "O.K. Fine." But of roughly 90 residents in the complex's nursing care wing, Ms. Suchedina, 75, with limited English language ability, is the only Muslim.

She conducts her daily prayers alone in her room, she must accept care from male nurses — which she finds religiously unacceptable — and she eats vegetarian meals because no halal meats are offered.

A Muslim woman on the kitchen staff keeps her company and warms up the curries that her nieces bring her. Still, Ms. Suchedina said: "I would feel more at home to be with people I can relate to. It would be good to be with Muslims."

For advice on developing such a place, Mr. Walji has turned to the Lutheran Church, which helped his family settle in the Minneapolis area in 1972, after the dictator Idi Amin of Uganda expelled them and other ethnic Asians from the country.

The Augustana Care Corporation, run by Lutherans, has provided health care to the elderly for over a century. Tim Tucker, its president, has offered to assist Mr. Walji with development and management of his project and with updating facilities to better meet the needs of Muslims. Over lunch in the dining room of Augustana's main elder care complex in Minneapolis, Mr. Tucker listened to Mr. Walji's wish list: communal prayer space, halal foods and same-sex nursing care.

Mr. Tucker then posed a host of questions. What was the proposed size and budget for the project? What levels of care would the new facility offer? Would it be better to build a new building or buy an existing space? Would the new organization also provide day care for the elderly, or at-home services, which might be less objectionable?

The lunch ended with the bulk of questions unanswered, but with a shared resolve. "This initiative will improve the way we think about care across the board," Mr. Tucker said. In recent decades, Asian and Hispanic immigrants have influenced the elder care industry, developing their own health services or adding multilingual staff members and a more diverse array of foods, activities and aesthetic touches to facilities.

In Toledo, Manira Saide-Sallock is a supporter of her mosque's efforts to build an assisted living and nursing center. A retired teacher, Ms. Saide-Sallock, 66, is the primary person responsible for the care of both her mother and her mother-in-law, one weakened by a stroke, the other from a serious fall.

"This level of care takes its toll physically and emotionally, and having a facility that was part of the mosque would be such a help," she said, adding, "Not that my mother or mother-in-law would ever go there."

Though his family is struggling to manage, Mr. Remtula, Mr. Walji's brother-in-law, is adamant that his home is the only viable base of care for his mother, Sakina, 86, who has Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and who now wears a motion sensor to sound warnings of her frequent and dangerous wanderings.

Razia Remtula, Mr. Walji's sister, said that her brother's project, while controversial now, might one day ease the burden and guilt for her own children. "I know how hard it is for me to provide this care," she said, "and I don't want my children to struggle with these decisions."

Her son, Sibtain, 27, listening intently from across the room, seemed puzzled by the discomfort surrounding his uncle's venture. "I think, in fact, it might be a better way to live when you are older, to be with your own peer group," he said. "If it was there, near the mosque, why not? I would definitely look into that."

Unsurprised by his nephew's response, Mr. Walji said: "You see? Inevitable."

Pluralism and Islam - Asani

Reflections on Pluralism and Islam
On Muslims Knowing the “Muslim” Other:
Professor Ali S Asani

We are pleased to share the following article by Professor Asani of Haravad.

Our Organization, World Muslim Congress is driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware.OUR MISSION Our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.

Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator

Mike Ghouse

This is an adapted version of an article entitled ‘On Muslims Knowing the “Muslim” Other: Reflections on Pluralism and Islam’ which was published in Muslims in the United States: Identity, Influence, Innovation. Proceedings of Conferences sponsored by the Division of US Studies, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, edited by Philippa Strum, May 11, 2005.


In the contemporary context of societies, the contruction of identity and culture is becoming increasingly challenging, in particular because technology and communications are increasingly bringing individuals into closer contact with one another. In this article, the author argues that it is only by “recognising pluralism as an organising principle that these societies will be able to embrace positively the religious and ethnic diversity among their Muslim and non-Muslim populations”. It is to this end that Ali Asani reflects on Muslim attitudes toward religious plural­ism in two related contexts: inter-religious - that is, Muslim attitudes towards non-Muslims and their religious traditions, and intra-religious - that is, attitudes toward diversity of religious beliefs amongst Muslim communities. In doing so, the essay provides an insightful overview of Qur’anic verses that speak to a pluralistic ethos and theology, one that includes all of humanity. In addition, it highlights the exclusivist use of Islam by some groups to further political ideologies, which contradict the core teachings of the faith.

Download PDF version of a of article (60 KB)

Key words:

Pluralism, exclusivism, taqiyya, Shi‘a, Sunni, Wahabi, inter-religious pluralism, intra-religious pluralism, diversity, hadith, Qur’an, Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, kafirs, apostate.

Table of Contents

  1. Tolerance in Islam: Pluralism and its Engagement with Diversity
  2. Inter-Religious Pluralism within Islam
  3. Inter-Religious Diversity
  4. Diversity of Interpretation in Muslim History
  5. Theology of Intra-Islamic Pluralism
"O humankind We [God] have created you male and female, and made you into communities and tribes, so that you may know one another. Surely the noblest amongst you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you. God is All-knowing and All-Aware." (Qur’an, 49:13)

Tolerance in Islam: Pluralism and its Engagement with Diversity

In my professional life as a scholar of Islam, I have often been asked whether Islam is truly a religion that advocates tolerance of peoples of other faiths. Does it encourage Muslims to live in peace with non-Muslims, or is it an ideology that is prone to create conflict, be it interreligious, intercultural or international? Furthermore, I have been asked to comment on the role that Muslim religious beliefs play in instigating individ­ual Muslims to commit acts of terrorism and violence against peoples of other faiths. What I am rarely asked are questions concerning tolerance within Islam: how do Muslims handle differences among themselves regarding doctrine, ritual practice and other matters of faith.

I personally became aware of issues concerning tolerance for religious diversity with­in Islam when, many years ago, I left my home in Kenya and came to the United States to attend Harvard College. During my first year of undergraduate study, I enrolled in an intensive course in Arabic taught by a visiting professor from Lebanon. One day, during the second semester of the course, the professor, who was a Sunni Arab, asked me to which denomination of Islam I belonged. When I replied that I was a Shi‘a Muslim, an Ismaili,[1] he looked stunned and exclaimed in Arabic, “la hawla wa la quwwat illa billah” (“There is no protection or strength except with God”), a remark usually made when someone is truly shocked or seeks God’s protection from evil. That moment was the first time that my identity as a Muslim had been challenged. Three decades later, after having taught a variety of courses on Islam at Harvard, I still overhear remarks by a few­ Muslim students that impugn my ability to teach Islam, not on the basis of my academic qualifications or publications, but simply because of the particular Muslim community to which I belong. Even a prominent and highly-respected Sunni Muslim scholar of Islamic Studies remarked publicly at an academic conference, “What does he know about real Islam? He is Ismaili.” The intent of such comments is clear: they are intended to marginalise and hence de-legitimise, whatever thoughts, opinions and ideas I have about Islam because I am judged not to be a “proper” Muslim.

Viewed from the perspective of Muslim history, these attitudes are hardly surprising for, as a minority within a minority, the Ismailis, with their distinctive interpretation of what it means to be Muslim, have been marginalised and variously stereotyped as heretics and infidels. Historically, in the face of persecution from various religious and political authorities, the Ismailis have sometimes been forced, like other Shi‘a groups, to resort to taqiyya - the concealing of one’s true religious identity. Taqiyya was an expedient measure of self-protection adopted by the Shi‘a when large numbers of adherents were killed because of their beliefs.

Thankfully, not all Muslims have been singular or narrow-minded in their view of their Muslim brothers and sisters. There are those whose interpretation of Islam is humanist in spirit and influenced by traditions of ecu­menism and who have been willing to embrace Ismailis as co-religionists, even though they may be unable to understand or agree with their doctrines and ritual practices. Humans, these Muslims claim, are not the final arbiters of faith - God is. As long as an individual recites the shahadah, the testimony of faith, and considers himself or herself to be Muslim, he or she belongs within the Muslim ummah, the worldwide community of believers. Whether and how one practices one’s faith is an affair between the individual and God, provided one’s beliefs do not harm society.

Clearly, there are glaring inconsistencies in the manner in which Muslim communities respond to diversity. In this essay I will reflect on Muslim attitudes toward religious plural­ism in two related contexts: inter-religious - that is, Muslim attitudes to non-Muslims and their religious traditions, and intra-religious - that is, attitudes toward diversity of religious beliefs amongst Muslim communities. I will focus particularly on the latter (intra-Islamic pluralism) since this is a subject that most Muslims regard as taboo. There are several rea­sons for the reluctance of Muslims to engage with this topic, perhaps the most significant being that many Muslims, in the contemporary context in which Muslim identities and cultures are being threatened by non-Muslim (western) hegemonies, mistakenly perceive that acknowledging and accepting a plurality of religious beliefs and practices amongst themselves is a sign of disunity and hence weakness. They therefore respond to questions concerning diversity of interpretation and practice within Islam by vehemently denying that it exists. Differences among Muslims are cultural, not religious, they proclaim; there is “only one” Islam. As Tariq Ramadan aptly points out, this conception of Islam as a uni­form theological monolith, and the inability to recognise and engage with intra-Muslim religious diversity have resulted in the strange situation where Muslims, either as individ­uals or groups, will ignore or exclude one another and yet claim to the outside world that we are all brothers and sisters.[2] Such enigmatic attitudes have deeply impacted the way in which Muslims understand the concept of pluralism.

At the outset I should clarify that by pluralism I intend not merely the acknowl­edgement, acceptance and tolerance of diversity, but an engagement with diversity that is based on respect for difference. Pluralism does not mean the elimination of dif­ference. As my colleague Diana Eck points out, “pluralism is engagement with, not abdication of, differences and particularities.”[3] To engage in pluralism is, therefore, to attempt to understand and appreciate how the other, whether Muslim or non-­Muslim, is different. To talk about Muslim attitudes toward pluralism, whether inter­religious or intra-religious, is to confront a paradox, by no means unique to Islam, of a religious tradition and its texts being used for contradictory goals: on the one hand, to promote pluralism, harmony and tolerance; on the other, to justify intolerance, per­secution, war and even killing. Such contradictory attitudes, in my opinion, can be only partially explained by pursuing a purely textual approach that highlights those verses in the Qur’an that Muslims of various persuasions often use as proof-texts to legitimise their positions, be they exclusivist or pluralist. They are better understood by examining the manner in which interpretations of the Qur’an and its teachings are influenced by the contexts in which Muslims live. In other words, explanations should be sought in the lived experiences of Muslims, realising that their interpretations of religious texts, either individually or communally, are influenced by a complex web of religious, social, cultural, political, and economic factors. These factors may be specif­ic to a local context or, as we have seen in the last two or three centuries, they may be transnational in nature, responding to the dynamics of competing global political and cultural hegemonies. A contextual approach, rather than a strictly textual approach, I submit, helps us better explain the conflicting and contradictory attitudes in Muslim societies on pluralism and related issues such as respect for difference, freedom of thought and freedom of religious belief.

Inter-Religious Pluralism within Islam

With regard to inter-religious pluralism, a convincing case can be made for the exis­tence of a strong pluralist ethos within the Qur’an and the hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), the major scriptural sources of Muslim thought. As I have dis­cussed in detail elsewhere[4], this ethos is evident in many ways. For example, I cite here a conception central to Muslim understandings of religious diversity: God’s message is universal, but its manifestations are plural and revealed through multiple prophets.This idea provides the basic underpinning for the manner in which the Qur’an relates itself and the faith that it preaches to Judaism and Christianity, the monotheistic traditions that preceded it in the Middle East. Far from denying the validity of these predecessor traditions, the Qur’an repeatedly affirms their essential truth, acknowledging that their message comes from one and the same God, and that it (the Qur’an) is only the latest of God’s revelations to affirm and confirm the revelations that preceded it:

Say: we believe in God and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma‘i1, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them and to Him [God] do we submit. (Qur’an 3:84).

Other Qur’anic verses envisage a world in which people, regardless of their differ­ences, are united by their devotion to God. Such sentiments are, for instance, echoed in the following verse in which God addresses humankind and affirms the principle of unity in diversity: “Surely this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord; so worship Me” (Qur’an 21:92). The emphasis on the universality of God’s message is also emphasised in the Qur’an’s fundamental teaching that God has revealed His message to all peoples and to all cultures; not a single people or nation has been forgotten (Qur’an 35:24). Although humans may have misinterpreted that message to suit their needs in creating conflicting traditions, all religions at their core have sprung from the same divine source and inspiration. As a result of this underlying essential unity, salvation, according to the Qur’an, is not exclusive to Muslims, but extends to anyone who is righteous and Godfearing (Qur’an 2:62).

The Qur’an also recognises the fundamental right of individuals, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, to interpret matters of faith for themselves. An often quoted verse of the Qur’an declares, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256), explicitly acknowl­edging that individuals cannot be forced to profess beliefs contrary to their will. Even if individuals perversely choose disbelief, they nevertheless have the right to make that choice as well. A chapter of the Qur’an entitled The Unbelievers, referring to those who reject the message of monotheism preached by Prophet Muhammad, stresses that belief is a matter of personal conviction and that difference in faith should not be the cause for persecution or abuse: “Say: O you who disbelieve, I worship not that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship, and I will not worship that which you have worshipped, and you will not worship that which I worship, to you is your path (religion) and to me is mine.” (Qur’an 109:1-6).

The Qur’an’s endorsement of religiously and culturally plural societies and the recognition of the salvific value of other monotheistic religions greatly affected the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Through the centuries, various Muslim societies have attempted to implement these pluralist ideals with varying degrees of suc­cess. It is also clear, however, that other Muslim societies, at certain historical times and in certain contexts, have chosen to ignore these pluralist ideals or to cast them aside. In their place, discourses of exclusivism and intolerance became prevalent. The most signif­icant of these can be traced back to the eighth and ninth centuries when Islam became a religion of empire and attempts were made to bestow theological legitimacy to the growth of Arab imperial hegemony. Within this context, certain segments of the Muslim political and religious establishments promoted anti-pluralist - that is, exclu­sivist - readings and interpretations of the Qur’an, primarily to advance hegemonic goals. For this purpose, as Abdulaziz Sachedina has so ably demonstrated, several Muslim exegetes devised terminological and methodological strategies to mold the exegesis of the sacred text so as to provide a convincing prop for absolutist ends.[5]

The principal means by which the exclusivists were able to promote their view was through the declaration that the many verses calling for pluralism, commanding Muslims to build bridges of understanding with non-Muslims, had been abrogated by other vers­es that call for fighting the infidel. The verses in question were revealed in the context of armed conflicts between a small, beleaguered Muslim community and its powerful Christian, Jewish and pagan Arab adversaries. Typical of these verses is the following: “Then when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and perform the prayer and pay zakat (the alms tax), let them go their way. Surely God is forgiving and merciful.” (Qur’an 9: 5). Another verse, revealed when certain Jewish and Christian groups betrayed the Muslim cause and joined in the military assault by the pagan Arabs against Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim community, cautioned against taking Jews and Christians as close political allies (Qur’an 5: 51). It is only by completely disregarding the original historical context of revelation of such verses and using them to engage in a large-scale abrogation of contradictory vers­es that the exclusivist Muslim exegetes have been able to counteract the pluralist ethos that so thoroughly pervades the Qur’an.

Inter-Religious Diversity

Exclusivist conceptions were central to fostering social and political solidarity among previously feuding Arab tribes. As such, this solidarity became the backbone of the early Arab Muslim empire, providing “an effective basis for aggression against those who did not share this solidarity with the community of believers.”[6] It is within this context that political concepts such as dar al-Islam (territories under Muslim suzeranity) and dar al­-harb (territories under non-Muslim control) became prominent, although they have no real basis in the Qur’an. On the basis of these exclusivist readings, which were devel­oped with a view to asserting hegemony, some Muslims today have not only proclaimed the superiority of Islam over other religions, but have also declared Christians and Jews to be infidels whom Muslims should not befriend.

With regard to intra-Islamic diversity, we encounter a similar paradox reflected in the dichotomy between pluralism and exclusivism, tolerance and intolerance, that we see with inter-religious diversity. Much of the discussion thus far regarding an ethos of pluralism in the Qur’an in the context of inter-religious diversity is also relevant to our consideration of intra-Islamic diversity. Of particular significance is the fact that the Qur’an defines the term “muslim” by stressing its literal meaning, “one who submits to God,” rather than the more commonly used understanding of the term that narrowly restricts its meaning to indicate religious identity in a sociological sense. By employing this definition, the Qur’an lays open the possibility of including in the category “muslim” any one who submits to the one God. In this sense, it views all who submit to God as being muslims. Such a broad definition is thus an affirma­tion that there are diverse ways of being muslim in a theological sense. The ecumeni­cal spirit of the Qur’an is even reflected in many hadith, or sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad. Of particular relevance is the hadith, “Difference of opinion in my community is a blessing.” In a similar vein, another hadith condemns intolerance among fellow Muslims: “He who calls his brother an infidel is himself an infidel.”

Diversity of Interpretation in Muslim History

Notwithstanding the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet concerning the funda­mental right of individuals to interpret matters of faith, as well as their broad inclusive definitions of who is a believer or a Muslim, diversity of interpretations became an issue of major contention in early Muslim history. In the first several centuries after the death of Prophet Muhammad, there emerged a variety of theological, legal, philosoph­ical and mystical conceptions of what it meant to be a Muslim. During the course of historical developments, attempts to define which of these conceptions represented “true Islam” became intricately connected with political conflicts concerning lead­ership. As a result, notions of religious and political loyalty overlapped so closely that religious dissent was often regarded as political dissent. The eventual emergence and triumph of Sunnism as a creed favored by the Abbasids meant that alternative con­ceptions were rejected as heretical and as constituting a threat to social order.[7] As Fazlur Rahman points out; “with all its concern for a liberal pluralism for institutions and basic individual freedoms, the Qur’an under certain conditions admits that the state when representing society is paramount.”[8]

According to the Qur’an, it is the duty of those in authority to create a just social and moral order by controlling dis­cord and eliminating corruption. Based on such verses of the text, the persecution of those whose religious beliefs could potentially disrupt the social and political order was deemed legitimate. Furthermore, since disputes amongst Muslims in the post­ Prophetic period were primarily over the nature of religio-political authority, it is not surprising that those in political authority would persecute those who held alter­native religious viewpoints, especially if those interpretations undermined the legit­imacy of a particular ruler or dynasty. As a result of this vexing intersection between the religious and the political, those in positions of religious authority in various Muslim communities have hurled charges and countercharges of heresy, infidelity and even apostasy at those who disagree with them. Since infidelity and apostasy are punishable by death in most traditions of Islamic law, these charges became effective tools with which to squelch freedom of religious belief. Historically, then, intra-Muslim intolerance was a result of a nexus between religious and political authori­ties, resulting in the state becoming an agent of intimidation to ensure conformity.[9] Not surprisingly, this situation has created obstacles in contemporary Muslim soci­eties which prevent free and open dialogue among Muslims on issues of faith, lead­ing Tariq Ramadan to comment, “Groups know one another, know how to identify one another, and work out where they are in relation to one another, but then they immediately ignore one another, exclude one another, or insult one another, without any attempt at discussion.”[10]

Historically, exclusivist interpretations of the Qur’an have been used to justify dominion over other Muslims, specifically those whose interpretation of the faith and religious practices have been perceived as deviating from the norms established by exclusivists. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several areas of the Muslim world witnessed the rise of movements which, in response to what was per­ceived as a general moral laxity and decline, attempted to “purify” Islam. The leaders of these movements targeted a whole range of practices and beliefs among fellow Muslims which, in their eyes, constituted evidence of religious backsliding. In particular, Sufi forms of Islam were attacked as not derived from “authentic” Islam. In certain cases, these attacks took on a military character and “jihads” were launched against fellow Muslims with the intention of forcibly imposing upon them those interpretations of Islam favored by the exclusivists.

The most dramatic and influential of these movements was the Wahabi movement in Arabia. Named after the reformer Abd al-Wahab, who died in 1791, this puritanical movement acquired an explosive energy after its founder allied himself with a petty Arab chieftain, Muhammad Ibn Saud. Abd al-Wahab was influenced in his thought by the writings of a controversial fourteenth-century thinker, Ibn Taiymiyyah (d. 1328 CE), whose exclusivist and literalist interpretations of the Qur’an led him to declare that the descen­dants of the Mongols were kafirs (infidels), notwithstanding their public profession of belief in Islam. To propagate their particular brand of Islam, the Wahhabis attacked fellow Muslims whose practices they considered “un-Islamic.” Targeting in particular popular expressions of Sufi practice as well as Shi‘i Muslims, the Wahhabis steadily expanded their power over Central and Western Arabia until they were able to effect the political unifi­cation of the peninsula into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Once established, the Wahhabi authorities instituted a religious police force, which, among its other functions, compels Muslims to perform ritual prayer at the appropriate times of the day. This is in direct con­tradiction of the Qur’an’s commandment, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” Not surprisingly, this movement considered Jews and Christians to be infidels.

In more recent times, exclusivist discourses have been prevalent among a variety of groups in the Muslim world including the so-called Islamists, who have increasingly interpreted Islam in exclusivist ways to provide a political ideology on which to base their conception of a modern nation-state. The reasons for the rise of such groups are complex. Broadly speaking, these movements are a reaction against modernity, western­isation, economic deprivation, global domination by western powers, and support by such powers for repressive regimes in predominantly Muslim lands. The failure of borrowed ideologies, such as capitalism, communism, or socialism, to deliver economic and social justice in many Muslim countries, has created exclusivist groups seeking a “pure” and “authentic” language in which to criticise the failing modern Muslim state, a state which has marginalised or displaced traditional religious authorities in a bid to maximise political power. The search for a solution to the myriad political, social, and economic problems confronting Muslims has led these exclusivist groups to use Islam as a political ideology for the state: “Islam is the solution.”

The zeal of such groups to understand Islam in a “pure” monolithic form, to engage in revisionist history, and to read religious texts in an exclusivist manner that denies any plu­rality of interpretations, has created a situation in which any Muslim who dares to disagree or oppose their perspective is immediately branded a kafir. In some cases, the invocation of Islam by the state itself to determine social and legal frame­works has provoked questions about which brand or interpretation of Islam would be used in the process and whether Islam defines the state or the state defines Islam. Responding to these and other questions, the Munir Report of 1954, commissioned by the Government of Pakistan after a series of sectarian riots rocked the country, concluded that no two scholars of Islam could agree on a definition of Islam or on who is Muslim, with Shi‘as and Sunnis declaring each other to be kafirs.[11]

Theology of intra-Islamic Pluralism

Aside from the fact that intolerance and intimidation in the name of religion vio­late the basic core teachings of the faith, it is increasingly clear that traditional atti­tudes toward intra-Muslim diversity are outdated today from both national and international perspectives. What is required is a paradigm shift in the ways in which Muslims relate to their co-religionists. At the national level, key Muslim nation­states, particularly in the Middle East, have yet to recognise that the notion of a monoethnic, monolingual, monoreligious state is an idea that has outlived its useful­ness, for it fails to come to terms with the fundamental aspect of humanity: its diver­sity.This failure poses a serious threat to the fabric of several Muslim societies, which are increasingly being torn by sectarian and ethnic conflicts. It is only by recognising pluralism as an organising principle that these societies will be able to embrace pos­itively the religious and ethnic diversity among their Muslim (and non-Muslim) populations.

At an international level, the technological and information revolutions and easier means of travel are increasingly bringing Muslims from different religious and cultural backgrounds into closer contact with each other. Notions of what it means to be a Muslim in a globalising context are changing rapidly. For these and other reasons, there is, therefore, a pressing need to develop a theology of intra-­Islamic pluralism based on core Muslim teachings. Indeed, the development of such a theology should parallel attempts of Muslim communities to engage in inter-reli­gious pluralism and dialogue with peoples of other faiths. Given the historical and theological wounds that have been festering for centuries and the ongoing competi­tion for religious and political hegemony among various groups, intra-Muslim dia­logue may seem an impossibly difficult task. This does not mean, however, that it should not be aggressively pursued as a goal.[12] In the words of Tariq Ramadan, “This dialogue is extremely difficult, sometimes much more difficult than interreligious dialogue itself, because discussion with one’s nearest and dearest is so risky. This com­mitment is nevertheless essential if we want to break down internal ghettoes and sec­tarianism and try, within manageable limits, to respect one another more.”[13]

Better literacy about Islam is crucial to the project of developing intra-Muslim pluralism. This would involve understanding and appreciating various Muslim per­spectives as well as recognising the rights of individuals and groups to interpret issues of faith without coercion. The acquisition of such literacy does not entail giving up distinctive interpretations that characterise diverse faith communities, be they Sunni, Shi‘i, etc., but, at a fundamental level, should emphasise teaching about faith perspec­tives without demonising Muslims who hold alternative viewpoints. Engendering literacy about other faith communities through the study of religion as a cultural and historical phenomenon should become an important objective of curricula in secu­lar schools in Muslim societies, especially in subjects such as world cultures or social studies. Only by raising levels of literacy about religion in the Muslim world will Muslims become aware of the implications of Qur’anic teachings concerning “reli­gious and cultural pluralism as a divinely ordained principle of coexistence among human societies.”[14] Indeed, genuine engagement with Qur’anic ideals of pluralism is an essential prerequisite for realising social, economic and political justice for all members of society.


[1] As Shi‘a Muslims, the Ismailis believe that after the death of Prophet Muhammad, religious and political authority was inherited by his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 661 CE) and, after him, by his direct male descendants. Ali and his descendants were holders of the office of Imam, entrusted to ensure the ongoing implementation and interpretation of the divine message revealed to Prophet Muhammad. In 765 CE, on the death of the Shi‘a Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, the Shi‘a, as a result of a dispute over succession, split in two factions. Those who claimed that the Imamate was inherited by his son Musa al-Kazim and his descendants came, on account of their belief in twelve Imams, to be identified as Ithna ‘Ashari Shi‘a or Twelver Shi‘a. The Ithna ‘Ashari believe that the twelfth Imam will return to the world at the end of time to restore justice and ensure the triumph of good over evil. The Ismailis, so named because they upheld the imamate of Ismail, the other son of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, believe that the line of imams continued among the descendants of Ismail. Over the centuries, as a result of disputes over succession to the Imamate, several sub­groups developed among the Ismailis with each group following a different descendant. Here I use the term Ismaili to indicate specifically the Nizari Ismaili group whose present Imam or leader, Shah Karim al-Husayni, Aga Khan IV, is the forty-ninth Imam. The Nizari Ismailis are currently the only Shi‘a group to have a living Imam claiming direct descent from Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib.

[2] Tariq Ramadan, Western Mulims and the Future of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 106.

[3] Diana Eck, A New Religious America (Harper Collins, 2001), p. 71.

[4] Ali Asani, “On Pluralism, Intolerance, and the Qur’an,” 71 The American Scholar (Winter 2002), pp. 52-60.

[5] Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 29.

[6] Op. cit.

[7] For a detailed discussion, see Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom in Religion, Apostasy and Islam (Ashgate, 2004), pp. 20-34.

[8] Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an (Bibliotheca, 1980), p. 44.

[9] Saeed and Saeed, op. cit., pp. 28-31.

[10] Tariq Ramadan, op. cit., Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, pp. 209-210.

[11] Report of the Court of Inquiry Constituted under Punjab Act II of 1954 to Enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 (Lahore: Government Printing Press, 1954), available at

[12] In an attempt to foster better understanding and dialogue among Muslims, King Abdullah II of Jordan convened a meeting of representatives of a variety of Muslim groups in Amman in July 2005. The meeting was organized partly in response to the strategy employed by goups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda to declare those Muslims who oppose them to be infidels and/or apostates, making them legitimate targets of assassination. The religious leaders attending the meeting issued a joint statement declaring that it was impossible and unacceptable to declare apostate or infidel any group of Muslims who believe in God, Prophet Muhammad, the pillars of faith, and who repect the pillars of Islam and do not deny any necessary article of the religion.

[13] Ramadan, op. cit.

[14] Sachedina, op. cit, p. 13.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Islam and Pluralism

Indeed, pluralism is heart and core of every religion. God is all merciful and belongs to all, no matter what name you call him (her or it), how you worship him, he wants to see us all get along, just like the diverse nature he has created co-exists in harmony. The world Muslim Congress is driven by Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware.”

I am pleased to read and share this column on Islam and Pluralism, and I urge you to visit our website and

Mike Ghouse

Islam and Pluralism
By Shah Abdul HalimWed

In the recent past several seminars were organized in the country on interfaith dialogue. These seminars made great contribution in strengthening already existing communal harmony and exposing the hollowness of the propaganda of the interested quarter to malign and defame Bangladesh. These seminars however failed to address the key issues of misperception of the Muslims and non-Muslim alike. Here in this article I shall make an attempt to address some of the texts which hitherto have been misunderstood.

No doubt Islam stands for pluralistic order. Pluralism is the design of Allah. Al Quran states: If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on the earth. Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe [10:99]? In another verse Al Quran states: To each among you have We prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds [5:48].

An examination of the texts of these two verses makes it clear that diversity is the will of Allah. The text of the aforementioned verses also makes it clear that compulsion in the matter of faith is forbidden which is also corroborated by another verse of the Quran which states: Let there be no compulsion in religion [2:256].

A critical look of the text of the verse 5:48 manifests that the purpose of these differences is to test, what we do with the revelations and how we behave with the precepts and teachings of Islam and who strive as in a race in good deeds. Diversity of religions, nations and peoples is a test and the teachings of Islam require that we manage the differences and live a peaceful harmonious life in this world. This is pluralism.

Al Quran states: And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief [2:251]. In another verse Al Quran states: Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is mentioned much would surely have been pulled down [22:40].

The teaching of the aforementioned two verses is very significant in the present world context. The ever lasting teachings, the universal dimension of the message of Islam of these two verses are that if there are no differences between people, if power is concentrated in the hands of one group alone, be it one nation or one race the earth would be corrupt because human beings require others to control and limit their irresponsible impulse and behavior for expansion, supremacy and dominance. Verse 22:40 indicates that the scheme of Allah is to protect monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques which establishes pluralistic religious nature of Islam.

Islam is basically a tolerant religion. The difference between peoples, nations, races and religions may lead to conflict and therefore mans’ responsibility remains in establishing peace and tranquility in the society. It is important that a balance is established in the society based on mutual respect, love and compassion rejecting all types of arrogance, whether it is material or intellectual and establishing such balance between different nations and communities is possible only by sharing knowledge about each other. Al Quran states: O mankind, We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other [49:13]. Knowing and respecting each other and dialogue and communication is the best way to avoid mistrust and overcome differences.

Establishing harmonious relations between peoples have been repeatedly emphasized in Islam. Al Quran states: Allah forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them for Allah loves those who are just [60:8]. In another verse Al Quran states: Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious [16:125]. In another verse Al Quran states: And dispute you not with the People of the Book except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong [29:46].

Confusion also exists among scholars and general people alike as to the meaning of the words Kafir, Kuffar, Kafara, Kafaru, Yakfuru which are commonly misunderstood both by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as being disbeliever, infidels or miscreants. But the word has also been used in the Quran in the sense of deny, deniers, denial, denied. Verse 3:28 states: Let the believers (Muslims) not take as allies the deniers (Kafirin) rather than believers. Arabic notion of Kufr or Kafir has often been mistranslated. Etymologically the general meaning of Kafir could be rendered as a denier with a veiled heart, veiled, shut off in their hearts to the extent that they deny the presence of the Creator. The dictionary meaning of Kufr also includes hide and cover up.

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the greatest poet-philosopher of Islam, affirmed that Hindus could not be considered as kafirs as they believe in the supremacy of God [Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, Gayatri Mantra, Urdu tr., Introduction quoted in Rafiq Zakaria’s Indian Muslims Where have they gone wrong?, Popular Prakashan and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, September 2004, p 246]

But Kafir may also indicate one who denies the evidence of the truth as is apparent in the revelation. Iblis knew the existence of Allah as he spoke to Him, but he refused to obey. Al Quran states: He (Iblis) refused, became proud and was among the deniers (min al kafirin) [2:34]. It would be pointless to say that Iblis, who had a dialogue Allah Subhanahu Wa ‘Taala, did not believe in Him. This is neither logical nor a consistent translation.

So to apply the term Kafir to Jews and Christians is justified as they do not recognize the Quran as the last revealed book. They deny (Yakfuru) the truth of the message and its Prophet, but this does not mean we call them miscreants in the sense that their faith in God is not recognized, which would be an inaccurate assertion [Tariq Ramadan (Professor of Philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland), Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004, pp 206].

It is apparent that these scholars do not feel it appropriate to call Jews, Christians, Hindus etc. as Kafirs because they do not deny the existence Almighty God. They are of course non-Muslims.

The pluralistic nature of Islam is evident from the fact that the duty of a Muslim is only educating and passing the knowledge of Islam, near and far. Al Quran states: And admonish your nearest kinsmen [26: 214]. The responsibility ends with educating, transmitting and communicating faith. To pass on the message is to call and invite people to the way of Allah. Conversion is something that only Allah can alone accomplish. It is an affair of the heart and does not lie within anyone else’s purview and jurisdiction. It is only the prerogative of Allah. This is the real meaning of Litakunu Shuhadaa Ala Al Nass- bear witness to the message before mankind.

The pluralistic nature of Islam is further established by its principle of justice in all circumstances, in relation to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Al Quran states: O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do [5:8]. The principle of justice in Islam constitutes the fundamental norm after faith in the oneness of Allah (Tawhid). This principle takes precedence over one’s own interest, the interest of relatives, interest of race, interest of nations and so on. If, for example, Muslims are called to participate in a war that is unjust or based solely on the longing for power, conquer land or control of territory or resources and other interests, they should not take part in such a war. Muslims are not allowed to fight for money, wealth or resources, grab power or occupy territory. They must avoid oppressive war.

Muslims cannot participate in unjust war, whatever is the identity or religion of the enemy. Belonging to particular faith does not mean that Muslims are required to accept or support injustice simply because it is committed by another member of the same faith. On the contrary, Muslims, according to the teachings of Islam, are required to oppose and even stop such injustice even if it is committed by another Muslim. Prophet Muhammad said: Help your brother whether he is unjust or the victim of injustice. One of the companions asked: Messenger of Allah. I understand helping someone who is the victim of injustice, but how should I help one who is unjust? The Prophet replied: Prevent him from being unjust. That is how you will help him [Bukhari. Muslim]. Another Hadith reports Prophet Muhammad said: Whoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hands; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart- and that is the weakest of faith [Muslim quoted in An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, tr. Ezzedin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies, Holy Quran Publishing House, Damascus, 1977, p110]

To erase the misgiving from the peoples’ mind another issue that need to be addressed in interfaith dialogue is the truth of the claim of killing of 400 to 900 Jews tribesmen of Banu Qurayza in cold blood and later buried in trenches in Medina by Prophet Muhammad for breaking treaty and joining enemy ranks as related by Ibn Ishaq in Sira, the biography of the Prophet. This narration of Ibn Ishaq, as examined and proved hereunder, is a later innovation and challenged by the scholars.

Imam Malik, a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, denounced Ibn Ishaq as an outright liar [Uyun al-Athar, 1, 2] and imposter [ibid, 1, 16] for transmitting such stories. Tabari, nearly 150 years after Ibn Ishaq, doubted that Prophet dig trenches. Ibn al-Qayyin in Zad al-Ma’ad ignores altogether the crucial question of numbers killed. Ibn Kathir even seems to have general doubt in his mind about the narration of Ibn Ishaq [Tabari, Tarikh, 1, 1499 (where the reference is to al-Waqidi, Maghazi, 11, 513); Zad al-Maad (ed. T. A. Taha, Cairo, 1970), 11, 82; Ibn Kathir, IV, 118]. The attitude of scholars and historians to Ibn Ishaq’s version of the story has been either one of complacency, sometimes mingled with uncertainty, or at least in two important cases, one of condemnation and outright rejection.

One of the weakness of the authors of Sira including Ibn Ishaq is that, unlike the compiler of Hadith who applied critical criteria for checking accuracy of the Hadith, they are not meticulous and did not apply the strict rules of traditions, did not provide chain of authorities, did not verify whether the narrators are trustworthy or not and therefore Sira cannot be really taken as absolutely authentic.

The reference of the Quran to this incidence is also very brief: Some you killed, some you took prisoner [33:26]. Scholars are of opinion that the reference of Quran as to the killing can only be those who were actually killed in the fighting.

The truth of killing of 400 to 900 Jews tribesmen of Banu Qurayza by the Prophet is rejected by scholars as Islam permits punishing only those who are responsible for sedition. To kill such a large number is also opposed to the Islamic sense of justice Al Quran states: No soul shall bear another’s burden [35:18]. It is also against the Quranic injunction regarding the prisoner of war. Verse 47:4 states that when the enemy is brought under control, the prisoners are to be treated with generosity (i.e. release the prisoner to freedom without ransom) or ransom is recommended.

Moreover it is unlikely that Banu Qurayza should be slaughtered when other Jewish groups who surrendered before Banu Qurayza and after them were treated leniently and allowed them to go. Indeed Abu Ubayd b.Sallam relates in his Kitab al-Amwal that when Khaybar fall to the Muslims there were among the residents a particular family or clan who had distinguished themselves by excessive rude abuse of the Prophet. Yet the Prophet addressed them in words which are no more than a rebuke [ed. Khalil Muhammad Harras, Cairo, 1388/1968, 241]. This happened after the surrender of Banu Qurayza. If so many hundreds of people had actually been put to death in the market-place of Medina and trenches were dug for the burial, it is strange that there is no trace whatsoever of all that - no sign, no visible mark to point to the place of massacre or burial trenches.

Had this slaughter actually happened jurists would have adopted it as a precedent? In fact exactly the opposite has been the case. The attitude of jurists and their rulings have been more according to the precepts of Islam. Al Quran states: No soul shall bear another’s burden [35:18].

Indeed Abu Ubayd b. Sallam relates a very significant incident in his book Kitab al-Amwal which is a book of jurisprudence, not of Sira (biography). He narrated an event of trouble among a group of the People of the Book (Ahal al Kitab) in Lebanon when Abdullah b. Ali was the regional governor. The governor put down the sedition and ordered the community in question to be moved to elsewhere. Imam al-Awzai, contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, in has capacity as the leading jurist of the time immediately objected to this decision of the governor. His argument was that the episode was not the result of the community’s unanimous agreement. He argued that under Islamic Shariah many people cannot be punished for the fault of the few. Islamic Shariah on the contrary stipulates the punishment of the few for the fault of the many. If Imam al-Awzai had accepted the story of slaughter of Banu Qurayza as related by Ibn Ishaq as true he would have treated it as a precedent and would not have come out with an argument against authority represented by governor Abdullah b. Ali and would have advised the governor to act according to precedent of Banu Qurayza.

The later scholar after scrutiny agreed that it would be reasonable to conclude that a few specific persons of Banu Qurayza tribe as having been put to death, some of whom were described as active in their hostility and were the ones who led the sedition and who were consequently punished - not the whole tribe.

The sources of the story of the killing of Banu Qurayza as related by Ibn Ishaq are extremely doubtful and the details are utterly opposed to the spirit of Islam and the rules of the Quran. Credible authority is lacking and circumstantial evidence does not corroborate and support it. This means that the story is doubtful. In fact Ibn Ishaq quoted as source such persons who were already dead at the time of occurrence of the incident.

The story of killing of Jews in Medina according to some other scholars and historians however has origin in earlier events. Prof. Guillaume is of the opinion that Jews arrived in Medina after Jewish Wars [A. Guillaume, Islam (Harmondsworth, 1956), 10-11]. According to Flavius Josephus, himself a Jew, Alexander, who ruled in Jerusalem before Herod the Great, hung upon crosses 800 Jewish captives and slaughtered their wives and children before their eyes [De bello Judaico, 1, 4, 6]. At Masada the number of those who died at the end was 960 [ibd, VII, 9, 1].

Clearly the similarity of the numbers killed is most striking. This is indeed more than a mere resemblance. The origin of the story of Banu Qurayza, preserved by descendants of Jews who fled south of Arabia after the Jewish Wars, just as Flavius Josephus recorded the same story for the Classical world. A later generation of their descendants superimposed details of the siege of Masada on the story of the siege of Banu Qurayza, perhaps by confusing a tradition of their distant past with one from their less remote history. The mixture provide Ibn Ishaq’s story.

Thus Muslims and non-Muslims alike must make sincere efforts to be acquainted with the true teachings of Islam and authentic history of Muslim culture and civilization for that can ensure peace and tranquility in this conflict ridden world. This is also important as that can alone change the western mindset which is vital to bring an end of hegemony and unilateralism. Allahu Alam. Allah knows best.

(The writer is the Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau Bangladesh. The author is greatly indebted to W. N. Arafat for using his scholarly research work New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1976, pp 100-107.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Moderate Muslims
Mike Ghouse, April 23, 2007

The words change in their meaning and context over a period of time, either they shrink in scope or become universal. The word Moderate is talked about quite extensively these days, especially in reference to Muslims. Who is a moderate Muslim?

In our life time, we have witnessed dramatic changes in understanding the words and how the meaning has changed in scope. The word Liberal is considered open minded around the world, where as in America the conservatives have reduced it to a negative term. John F. Kennedy challenged it , "But if by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal.' " The neo-cons use the world "Liberal" as though it is evil. Oddly the Liberals are not as offensive to denounce the trickery played by the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck and others.

Don Feder in USA today claims that, "A universe that isn't God-centered becomes ego-centered" Belief or non-belief in God does not make a big dent in one becoming an egomaniac. Morality is common social values internalized, some derive from religion, as it is a source, but morality does not necessarily hinge on being God-centric. For years, an Atheist was meant an immoral person, and it is all going to change. Morality is derived from religion but is not religion- dependent.

The tragic 9/11 was a wake up call to Muslims around the world. They felt a sense of betrayal as Jihad, a noble and comprehensive concept of struggle, was resorted to commit violence against innocent people, where Islam, even in the battle field does not allow indiscriminate violence. Such violence in the name of Islam can be better understood as abusing the religion as a political tool, just as much as the crusades and inquisitions were political tools using religion to consolidate the hold of rulers over their people.

Jihad is an Arabic word meaning a struggle or an effort in the fulfilling of the commandments of God in order to become a better human being. The war is not holy and there is nothing in the Qur'an to aggressively go after anyone, unless you're defending against an aggression. Islam forbids aggression and suicide.
Prophet Muhammad always talked about the Middle path being the most acceptable way of living, the one that prevents you from going to the extreme liberal or radical view points and then realizing that the middle path is peaceful and brings stability in one's life.

I was teaching Buddhism and incredibly, the ideal of moderation in Islam, is expressed well in Buddha's middle path. When Buddha experimented from self-denial after the princely life of self-indulgence, he figured that the middle path was the way to go, it released him from the extremes and paved the way to freedom, salvation, nirvana, mukti, moksha or Nijaat.

Prophet Muhammad preferred the life style of a person who lived responsibly, responsibility to himself/herself, health, wealth, spirituality, balance, caring forthe family, being the best neighbor one can be and a model citizen to the community and to the world. Once his associates asked him which one of the two would God shower his grace upon -i) the one who prayed all times and ii) the one was drunk but shared his little food with a hungy neighbor. You bet, the answer was ii.
Muslims are given to be moderates and the phrase 'Moderate Muslim' is simply rhetorical, but today, it is necessary to make that distinction, as the media shines their light on a few radicals as representing the religion, the distinction is necessary as the Moderates would represent Islam in practice; coexist in harmony.

Coming to the word "Moderate Muslims", Muqtedar Khan writes, "Muslims in general do not like using the term, understanding it to indicate an individual who has politically sold out to the "other" side. In some internal intellectual debates, the term moderate Muslim is used pejoratively to indicate a Muslim who is more secular and less Islamic than the norm."

Asma Khalid writes in Christian Science Monitor "The term moderate Muslim is actually a redundancy. In the Islamic tradition, the concept of the "middle way" is central. Muslims believe that Islam is a path of intrinsic moderation, wasatiyya."

In an article Civil Liberties and Uncivil Super-Patriotism: The Struggle between the Two Americas, Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq explains why the media and the government in America have made it so difficult for themselves to find moderate Muslims.

Khan, Khalid and Farooq are right. Muslims do resist the classification of any kind, and moderation is the given standard of Islam. When Muslims join in to pray at the largest annual Muslim congregational prayer on the day of Hajj, all distinctions of wealth, knowledge, age, gender, race, ethnicity and culture simply fade. There is no distinction between Shia or Sunni or any other sub-group, they may fold their hand on their chest or at the naval, but pray they do with no one looking at the other nor anyone is judgmental about others.

However, given the current meaning ascribed to the word Moderate in all faith traditions, it is necessary to identify a meaning with the word.

Liberal Muslims can be defined as those who see a lot of flexibility in their faith; they find freedom in following their faith and making their own rules in some aspect of life as they go forward. Religion is a private matter to them; some of them don't see the need for an outward expression. The conservative Muslims on the other hand (some of them are fundamentalists or orthodox Muslims) will remain loyal to the literal meaning of the words, they don't see the need for any flexibility in following their faith as they understand it. Together these two groups constitute – i.e., strict conservatives and liberals - less than 5% of the Muslim population. That may be the ratio in all groups.

Moderate Muslims do not wear religion on their sleeve; religion is a personal matter between them and the creator. Religion is not a barrier to them and they get along with all people. In practicing their faith they see some flexibility as well as accept some rigidity. They can also be called average Muslims, like the average Joes or Abdul's. When you are with them, you get the idea that they are Muslims, but it is not a neon sign.

Ironically the moderates of any faith do not wish to be labeled. So is the case with Moderate Muslims. However, we cannot escape being identified as Moderate Muslims and I am one.

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.

Orthodox - Moderate -Labels

Why I am not a moderate Muslim

Paul Lachine

Why I am not a moderate Muslim
I'd rather be considered 'orthodox' than 'moderate.' True orthodoxy is simply the attempt to piously adhere to a religion's tenets.

By Asma Khalid

Cambridge, England - Last month, three Muslim men were arrested in Britain in connection with the London bombings of July 2005. In light of such situations, a number of non-Muslims and Muslims alike yearn for "moderate," peace-loving Muslims to speak out against the violent acts sometimes perpetrated in the name of Islam. And to avoid association with terrorism, some Muslims adopt a "moderate" label to describe themselves.

I am a Muslim who embraces peace. But, if we must attach stereotypical tags, I'd rather be considered "orthodox" than "moderate."

"Moderate" implies that Muslims who are more orthodox are somehow backward and violent. And in our current cultural climate, progress and peace are restricted to "moderate" Muslims. To be a "moderate" Muslim is to be a "good," malleable Muslim in the eyes of Western society.

I recently attended a debate about Western liberalism and Islam at the University of Cambridge where I'm pursuing my master's degree. I expected debaters on one side to present a bigoted laundry list of complaints against Islam and its alleged incompatibility with liberalism, and they did.

But what was more disturbing was that those on the other side, in theory supported the harmony of Islam and Western liberalism, but they based their argument on spurious terms. While these debaters – including a former top government official and a Nobel peace prize winner – were well-intentioned, they in fact wrought more harm than good. Through implied references to moderate Muslims, they offered a simplistic, paternalistic discourse that suggested Muslims would one day catch up with Western civilization.

In the aftermath of September 11, much has been said about the need for "moderate Muslims." But to be a "moderate" Muslim also implies that Osama bin Laden and Co. must represent the pinnacle of orthodoxy; that a criterion of orthodox Islam somehow inherently entails violence; and, consequently, that if I espouse peace, I am not adhering to my full religious duties.

I refuse to live as a "moderate" Muslim if its side effect is an unintentional admission that suicide bombing is a religious obligation for the orthodox faithful. True orthodoxy is simply the attempt to adhere piously to a religion's tenets.

The public relations drive for "moderate Islam" is injurious to the entire international community. It may provisionally ease the pain when so-called Islamic extremists strike. But it really creates deeper wounds that will require thicker bandages because it indirectly labels the entire religion of Islam as violent.

The term moderate Muslim is actually a redundancy. In the Islamic tradition, the concept of the "middle way" is central. Muslims believe that Islam is a path of intrinsic moderation, wasatiyya. This concept is the namesake of a British Muslim grass-roots organization, the Radical Middle Way. It is an initiative to counter Islam's violent reputation with factual scholarship.

This was demonstrated through a day-long conference that the organization sponsored in February. The best speaker of the night was Abdallah bin Bayyah, an elderly Mauritanian sheikh dressed all in traditional white Arab garb, offset by a long gray beard.

The words coming out of the sheikh's mouth – all in Arabic – were remarkably progressive. He confronted inaccurate assumptions about Islam, spoke of tolerance, and told fellow Muslims an un­pleasant truth: "Perhaps much of this current crisis springs from us," he said, kindly admonishing them. He chastised Muslims for inadequately explaining their beliefs, thereby letting other, illiberal voices speak for them.

I was shocked by his blunt though nuanced analysis, given his traditional, religious appearance. And then I was troubled by my shock. To what extent had I, a hijabi Muslim woman studying Middle Eastern/Islamic studies, internalized the untruthful representations of my own fellow Muslims? For far too long, I had been fed a false snapshot of what Islamic orthodoxy really means.

The sheikh continued, challenging Mr. bin Laden's violent interpretation of jihad, citing Koranic verses and prophetic narrations. He referred to jihad as any "good action" and recounted a recent conversation with a non-Muslim lawyer who asked if electing a respectable official would be considered jihad. The sheikh answered "yes" because voting for someone who supports the truth and upholds justice is a good action.

The sheikh, not bin Laden, is a depiction of true Islamic orthodoxy. The sheikh, not bin Laden, is the man trained in Islamic jurisprudence. The sheikh, not bin Laden, is the authentic religious scholar. But to call him a moderate Muslim would be a misnomer.

• Asma Khalid is pursuing her master's degree in Middle Eastern/Islamic studies at the University of Cambridge in England.

Mapping Sharia in America

American Muslims and democracy
Mike Ghouse

Fellow Americans,

Please read through the following piece in the Conservative Voice. We need to prepare a response, and I request the members of World Muslim Congress to respond to this as succintly as possible.

11:00 AM - letter sent to the conservative voice.

Should Americans fear that if Muslims grew in significant numbers, they may resort to imposing their Sharia laws on to others? I am sure there are few out there who would dream about it, just as the neo-cons, the hard core fundamentalists in every faith and a variety of lobbies would like to get their way.

Is the fear propagated by Dave Gaubatz legitimate? The author fails to mention the sentiments of majority of Americans, be it Christian, Jews, Hindus, all others and Muslims. The overwhelming Majority of Muslims prefer democracy, a pluralistic democracy. They would rather live in a free society, where they can live their life without coercion or deferential compulsion including practicing their faith in peace.

They cherish the American values, and there is plethora of writings by American Muslims feeling proud to relate the values of Islam with the values enshrined in our constitution; the values of liberty, justice and equal opportunity. No American Muslim would want to live in an Islamic nation per se, as they exist without freedom and democratic values.

Muslims are frustrated with our support for oppressive regimes; we are constantly supporting ruthless monarchies and dictators on one hand and talking about democracy on the other. Americans of all hues including Muslims would like to see that our values of democracy and free enterprise take root in those nations, and smoothly become democracies, where the individual liberty is valued. Our economic interests ought to be in their growth, as our future consumers of services and not customers of weapons.

It is an educational process that we must plan and strive to accomplish. We could be smart and invest 1/4th of monies we blew in Iraq on this program. Our investments would produce a greater yield and peaceful societies.

Islam bashing is on rise, opinions are being manufactured and the predators are multiplying to cash in on the trend.

Muslim Americans rather subscribe to the Democratic values and want nothing but democracy for governance whether they are a majority or a minority. As Muslims, we are committed to a world of co-existence and believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for all, for it to survive and sustain.

Please respond as a comment at this link:

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.

Mapping Shari'a in America
by Dave Gaubatz
April 22, 2007 01:00 PM EST

Mapping Shari’a in America, a project undertaken by the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE).

The question has been asked of me, Why is it necessary to map Shari’a in America?

Implicitly this question is really two questions. Why would anyone need to map out all of the mosques and Islamic day schools in the US and assuming that this was a worthwhile project, why would a private non-profit organization such as SANE undertake this and not the FBI or some other division of the Homeland Security Administration?

The answer to the first question is based upon what I know to be true from my almost two decades working for the US Air Force (Office of Special Investigations) and the federal government (non-military) special agent specializing in intelligence and counter-terrorism, especially the Islamic variety. My professional career has required me to learn Arabic and to spend many years in the Middle East, developing human intelligence to learn who, what, where, and how the terrorists want to kill Americans and destroy our nation.

The first thing I learned was that the political ideology of winning over the West and the world for an Islamic Caliphate is NOT specific to some extremist group of Muslims. This is mainstream Islam and Shari’a. Historical, traditional and authoritative Islamic law mandates every Muslim to work to that end through personal development (or internalized Jihad), and outreach (or dawa), and external Jihad or war.

It is certainly true that not all Muslims are faithful to their full calling, but any Shari’a faithful Muslim, meaning any Muslim who accepts Islamic law as authoritative (even if he himself does not live up to its standards) strives for or at least dreams of the day when his country and the world will live under the mandates of Islamic law.

This Islamic calling can be accomplished through techniques ranging from gentle persuasion, propaganda and public relations, intellectual disputation, moral authority, implied threats, actual threats, political power, and violence. The goal remains the same: all of the non-Islamic world, and indeed all of the Islamic world, must submit to Shari’a. A Muslim who refuses to do so will be killed. That is the legal judgment in every major school of Islamic law. A non-Muslim, assuming he is not a pagan (typically a Christian or Jew) might be given the opportunity to live in a subservient status in an Islamic society and pay a special head tax to prove his submission. But this option is left to the Caliph or ruler at the time. Historically, even pagans (such as Hindus) have been given this option but the different schools of Islamic jurisprudence differ on the appropriateness of this dispensation.

Now to the Why? The question should be answered by just taking a look at your neighborhood mosque or Islamic day school. Because this country does not “discriminate” in its immigration policy, we now have several millions of Muslims in this country (the exact number is disputed but we can safely say it is at least 3 million and others suggest it might be as high as 6 million). Take a look at these statistics from a US government open source web site:

Demographic Facts

>Mosques in the United States: 1,209

>American Muslims associated with a mosque: 2 million

>Increase in number of mosques since 1994: 25 %

>Proportion of mosques founded since 1980: 62 %

>Average number of Muslims associated with each mosque in the United States: 1,625

>U.S. mosque participants who are converts: 30 %

>American Muslims who "strongly agree" that they should participate in American institutions and the political process: 70 %

>U.S. mosques attended by a single ethnic group: 7 %

>U.S. mosques that have some Asian, African-American, and Arab members: nearly 90 %

>Ethnic origins of regular participants in U.S. mosques:
South Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Afghani) = 33 %
African-America = 30 %
Arab = 25 %
Sub-Saharan African = 3.4 %
European (Bosnian, Tartar, Kosovar, etc.) = 2.1 %
White American = 1.6 %
Southeast Asian ( Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino) = 1.3 %
Caribbean = 1.2 %
Turkish = 1.1 %
Iranian = 0.7 %
Hispanic/Latino = 0.6 %

>U.S. mosques that feel they strictly follow the Koran and Sunnah: > 90 %

>U.S. mosques that feel the Koran should be interpreted with consideration of its purposes and modern circumstances: 71 %

>U.S. mosques that provide some assistance to the needy: nearly 70 %

>U.S. mosques with a full-time school: > 20 %

Given the almost universal respect Muslims give to Shari’a (even if they fail to live up to its standards), it should be apparent we have a real problem in this country. What makes matters worse, is that one of the most radical and virulently violent sects of Islam, the Salafists or more derogatorily referred to as Wahhabi’ists (named after the sect’s founder as if to suggest his approach was an innovation and that he was not appropriately submissive to Allah, Mohammed and the traditions which developed subsequently), principally situated in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, are financing and providing the leadership for the vast majority of the mosques and Islamic day schools in the US.

As a result, we have a well-developed and highly reticulated network of quite militant religious Muslim leaders directing a reservoir of “moderate” Muslims who can be energized almost at will. This is especially true among the young, restless, Muslim men who scorn their parents’ effort to be accepted by the American establishment and their Christianized ways (i.e., tolerance of pluralism; Sunday off work rather than Friday; socializing with non-Muslims, as just a small sampling of their list of grievances). Once these young rebellious Muslim youth learn of a vibrant, virulent, and masculine Muslim approach to the modern, self-indulging Western world, which most certainly favors a Judeo-Christian world view, this ready-reservoir of young combatants is any military recruiter’s dream.

To understand this organized effort to militarize US Muslims, permit me to quote US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), not something I would normally do; but, on this subject he was quite accurate. I quote from Schumer’s section of the US Senate’s web site:

US Senator Charles Schumer discussed the role that top officials in the Saudi government, including Interior Minister Prince Naif , play in spreading militant Wahhabism in the United States and throughout the Middle East. Schumer detailed how prominent members of the Saudi royal family have set up charities that funnel money to mosques and madrassah schools that advance Wahhabi teachings. In the United States alone, Saud Arabia boasts of supporting over 18 mosques and schools, including the Islamic Center in Washington. The following is Schumer's statement:

On the eve of the second anniversary of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I think it is terribly important that we take stock of our efforts to root out terrorism. These hearings can play an important part in that process and I expect that after today we will have a better understanding of how the extremist ideology held by the 9-11 hijackers was spawned and where it has taken hold today.

Wahhabism is known throughout the Muslim world for its puritanical and severe approach to the teachings of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. It preaches violence against non-believers or infidels and serves as the religious basis for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Experts agree that Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of Wahhabist belief and its extremist teachings. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that Saudi sponsored groups are trying to hijack mainstream Islam here in the United States – in mosques, in schools, and even in prisons and the military – and replace it with Wahhabism.

As we will hear today, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Saudi royal family made a deal with the devil, offering to sponsor the teachings of Wahhabist clerics in exchange for their support of the Royal Family’s rule.

Wahhabi teachings include examples of Allah cursing Jews and Christians and turning some of them into apes and pigs; and warnings that Muslims must consider non-Muslims or infidels their enemy.

One of the terms of the dirty deal between the Saudi Royal Family and its Wahhabi partners has been the export of Wahhabist belief as part of Saudi foreign policy. Prominent members of the Saudi royal family – including Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister and anti-terror czar – have set up charities that funnel money to Wahhabi madrassah schools throughout the Middle East and Pakistan, making these areas hotbeds of anti-American sentiment and extremism.

Naif is a particularly bad seed. He’s made comments insisting that Zionists were responsible for 9-11 and claimed that Saudis citizens could not have been involved in the attack, even after the Saudi government admitted that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.

He also oversees the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifadah, which, like Saddam Hussein, has provided families of terrorists with millions of dollars through specially designated bank accounts. It seems impossible to expect cooperation in the War on Terror from someone who sponsors extremist and hateful religious belief and encourages terrorist actions. After the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1998 that killed 19 Americans, it was Naif who single-handedly prevented the trial of 13 Saudis indicted for the crime.

Even as I speak, he appears to be up to his old tricks as reports indicate that Saudi officials have for months denied American agents access to a Saudi with knowledge of extensive plans to release poison gas into the New York City subway system.

It boggles my mind that on the eve of the second anniversary of September 11th, we cannot access someone who may have knowledge of a new 9-11 in the making, all because of the intimate relationship Saudi bigwigs have with extremist Wahhabi clerics.

That’s why I wrote to the Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar in July calling for Naif’s dismissal. Sadly, I was rudely dismissed. Earlier this week, I wrote to Secretary Powell asking him to make Naif’s removal part of US policy toward Saudi Arabia. I eagerly await the Secretary’s response. There are indications that Prince Sultan, the Saudi Defense Minister, may also be involved in activities similar to Naif since he has also set up charities that send money abroad for apparently humanitarian purposes.

And the money we are talking about here is not small potatoes. According to the Saudi Arabian Information Resource, between 1975 and 1987, Saudi Arabia sent $48 billion overseas in development aid, second only to the United States.

While all of this is terribly alarming – and no doubt contributed to the events of 9-11 – the most disturbing news is that Wahhabism – backed by truckloads of Saudi oil money – is now making inroads here in the United States. Saudi Arabia boasts of directly supporting over 18 mosques and schools across the country, including Islamic Centers in Washington and New York.

Experts who we heard from at the previous hearing suggest the real number is much higher, reaching into the hundreds, as intermediary organizations like the Saudi-sponsored World Assembly of Muslim Youth, provide financial support to American mosques and schools. In exchange, they demand that these mosques and schools toe the Wahhabi line. Saudi textbooks that preach violence against infidels can be found in some American Muslim schools.
And that’s not all. Grass roots political organizations that claim to act as the official voice of the American Muslim community here in Washington are also major recipients of Saudi money.

The Council on American Islamic Relations – perhaps the most famous of these groups – reportedly received financial support from Saudi-funded organizations to build its $3.5 million headquarters here in Washington.

This may explain why in April 2001, the Council released a survey saying that 69% of Muslims in America say it is “absolutely fundamental” or “very important” to have Wahhabi teachings at their mosques.

Now I don’t believe that these figures reflect the true feeling of the American Muslim community because the extremist Wahhabi ideology is violent, exclusionary and intolerant. It denigrates not only Christianity and Judaism, but also Shia and moderate Sunni Islam. Yet the leaders of these extremist organizations are smart and have public relations savvy. They know how to promote their cause and are willing to do what is needed to get backing from Saudi oil money.

To make matters worse, prominent members of the Council’s current leadership – people who were invited to the hearings today but declined to testify – also have intimate connections with Hamas – a group that receives substantial funding from Saudi Arabia and subscribes to Wahhabist teachings. I wish they had taken us up on our invitation so that they could explain themselves.

Other Muslim community groups in the United States – the Islamic Society of North America, the Graduate School for Islamic Social Sciences and the American Muslim Foundation to name a few – also receive money from Saudi sources and exhibit Wahhabi influence. The Graduate School and the American Muslim Foundation are both currently under investigation by the US government for terrorist financing

As I noted during the previous hearings we held, this is why it is so disturbing that these groups – and only these groups – are used by the US military and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to help select imams to minister in their ranks. These groups, with their Wahhabist tenets, clearly do not represent mainstream Islam, a system of belief that is peaceful and preaches respect and tolerance of other religions. But there should be no doubt that these organizations are on a mission to claim the American Muslim community as their own.

Official Washington can do much to counteract this movement by recognizing American Islamic groups that do not take Saudi money and which do not endorse Wahhabist teachings. These are the people who should be invited to White House prayer breakfasts instead of those who have publicly praised suicide martyrdom.

The Bush Administration can also help by striking at the source of these organizations’ support: Saudi oil money. Secretary Powell and others must make it clear to the Saudi Royal Family that if it does not end its dirty deal with the extremist Wahhabi clerics, it will ends its relationship with the United States.

I pray they act before it’s too late.

So we see that unless someone investigates each and every one of the mosques and Islamic day schools in the US to determine what brand of Islamic law each one follows and how committed the organization, its leaders and followers are to Shari’a and Jihad, we will be effectively participating in our own destruction because we have accepted the Politically Correct notion that those of us in the West are not capable of or permitted to distinguish between good religious teachings and religious teachings which are in fact a disguise for a murderous and quite dangerous hegemonic political ideology.

And that brings me to the second part of the question, Why? Why must SANE, a private, not-for-profit organization take on the Herculean task of training a team of former intelligence and counter-terrorism professionals for the specific purpose of mapping and creating a Shari’a Index (from 1 – 10: 1 = rejects Islamic law; 10 = preaches [even if only in Arabic, Urdu, or Farsi] openly violence and promotes Jihad) for every US mosque and Islamic day school in the US?

The simple answer is that the US government won’t and no one else has the skill set or the resources we do. And, no one is as motivated as the SANE team. Each one of us have lived and worked in Islamic environments either as intelligence officers for the US military or as international legal and strategic policy experts. We know what we are up against.

The US government won’t because Political Correctness and rules and regulations prohibit “profiling” Arabs or Muslims even when you are looking for Islamic Jihadists. The FBI could no more penetrate the Islamic world than Jerry Falwell. Our team consists of, and will be further augmented by, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi speaking private citizens, former professionals who know what to look for and how to assess it.

But the real answer to Why is the fact that in this country, our government and its myriad of agencies and bureaucracies have determined that a priori Islam itself is NOT the evil ideology it in fact is; rather, it has been hijacked by a few bad souls.

So I must confess that I deleted one paragraph from Senator Schumer’s remarks above. That deletion, pure and unadulterated PC, is why even though Schumer sees the Wahhabi threat, he won’t and cannot do anything meaningful to stop it:

Before I start my statement, however, I want to make one point crystal clear: mainstream Islam is a peaceful religion that deserves the respect of all Americans. It has a proud history and many of the people who follow its beliefs here in the United States are hardworking, patriotic citizens.

But history and empirical fact make absolutely clear that mainstream Islam is the evil we face and the enemies are the majority of Muslims around the world who pledge allegiance to Shari’a, even if they observe it in the breach.

This statement by Schumer is not unlike the statement we find in EVERY public statement by every government law enforcement and counter-terrorism agency. Thus, when an FBI deputy director of counter-terrorism came to testify before Congress on the very real and organized effort by Jihadists to convert young Black convicts in our jails and prisons, he began his statement as follows:

Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that Islam itself is not the problem but rather how Islam is used by violent extremists to inspire and justify their actions. Additionally, the FBI does not investigate individuals for their religious beliefs. Rather, we investigate the activities of individuals who want to do harm to the citizens and interests of United States and those of our allies abroad. The FBI fully recognizes and is committed to protecting prisoners' civil liberties, including religious rights. These activities have led us to believe that prisons continue to present opportunities for the proselytizing of both Sunni and Shia forms of radical Islam. (Emphasis added.)

But what can this possibly mean? Is it based upon visiting mosques around the world? In America? I have done both and when I read and hear what is preached in Arabic it is no different than what I heard when I was stationed in Saudi Arabia and later, during the early days of the war, in Iraq. Are there “good” Muslims? Of course but they are simply dwarfed, overshadowed, intimidated and silenced by the faithful ones.

Moreover, in the Islamic day schools beginning to sprout up across America as adjuncts of the mosques, the young Muslim children are being taught the basics of Jihad – how to hate the infidel as a swine and monkey, if not the devil incarnate, from the earliest of ages.

That is why we have begun this Mapping Shari’a in America: Knowing the Enemy! project.

And when we’re done, we will produce an interactive digital map where you can click on any region, focus in on any state, then on any city or neighborhood, and find out which mosques and Islamic day schools are operating near your home or near a nuclear power plant or major water supply and see what they are preaching and how. You will learn who is leading their Qur’an studies and which imam and school of jurisprudence (or fiqh) they follow. We will then index that for you so you can understand the threat level.

We will produce a specialize version for law enforcement but the main purpose is for Americans. Not unlike a parent’s desire to know if a convicted pedophile has moved in next door, we deserve to know if our neighborhood has become the cover for Muslim faithful Jihadists. The American People are their own best defense.

And, while we don’t explicitly condone or promote citizen militias, we do condone and promote a fully informed and politically active citizenry. If we will not be the eyes and ears for law enforcement, they have already proven they will turn a PC-blinded eye and ear to the noble religion of peace. We will not.

It is our plan to update this work at least every year so that the networked cells operating out of these mosques and day schools will know someone is tracking them.

Finally, it is important to note that our task is not redundant of the excellent work begun by Steven Emerson and Rachel Ehrenfeld. In many respects, these two pioneering, innovative, courageous and diligent investigators have set the standard for citizen awareness of Islamic Jihad in America. Mr. Emerson has compiled a world-class data base on known terrorists and organizations. Ms. Ehrenfeld has carefully documented their financial networks and how to get at them. Both Ehrenfeld and Emerson are national security assets.

But our work addresses the problem of Jihad in America differently. We don’t want to track known Jihadists and their financial networks. These enemies of America are known and because they have already acted in some way against the US or its interests, the federal authorities are keeping tabs on them or actively pursuing criminal investigations.

Our task is prophylactic. We want to prevent the next criminal act before it even has time to fructify into a conspiracy of evil and deeds of violence and mayhem. We want to expose Islam in America for what it is at its source and the source of Islam has always been its mosques and educational institutions. Without the network of theological and Shari’a-focused instruction, Islam is lost. Our goal is to inform ourselves, the American People, what it means to be a faithful Muslim in America at any given mosque or Islamic day school in the country. It will be up to all of us as Americans to use this information to turn things around. Immigration reform; profiling; criminalizing the teaching or preaching of Shari’a as an overt act of criminal conspiracy.

Look for my periodic reports from the field at as our project progresses.

Target Publication Date of our final work proudct: June 2008 (with intermediate publications as the investigation and analysis continues).

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.