Archive for the ‘Around the World’ Category

Some thoughts on the Tunisia massacre, including why it is absurd to link an attack against a Muslim-majority state to Islam

July 1, 2015

Bismillah.

I would like to express my thoughts and prayers for the victims of the Sousse massacre, about 30 of whom are British citizens.

This was a monstrous attack, accompanied by a disgusting statement of justification (see previous blog post). The Imperial Hotel was hardly a “den of prostitution, vice and unbelief” – it was a legitimate holiday destination authorised by the state of “Muslim Tunisia” (to use ISIL’s own phrase). Rezgui is not a gallant knight, but a coward who attacked unarmed men and women holidaying with their families and friends, often with little children, some of whom are now traumatised and emotionally scarred.  Many of the victims were old enough to be the killer’s parents or grandparents, but he still showed them no mercy during his attention-seeking, narcissistic rampage.  “Look at me!  I am a deluded, wannabe holy warrior!”

The previous week, another deluded young man massacred nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston.  Some of the victims’ families have already forgiven the killer.  I hope that at least some of the British victims’ families will find it in their hearts to forgive the Tunisia killer, although that is of course easier to say than do, and it will be a painful internal journey for all the survivors and relatives – life is a constant journey, outwardly and inwardly, of course.

We are just days away from the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 1995. The ringleader of that attack claimed it was on behalf of “his people,” i.e. the people of Iraq, even though he had never set foot in that country. British Muslims should all stand in solidarity with the victims of 7/7 and of the Sousse massacre, and make it clear in no uncertain terms to the members, supporters, sympathisers and apologists of Al-Qaeda and ISIL everywhere, that include hundreds of deluded Brits, that the British people are “our people,” as are the vast majority of decent, civilised people everywhere. And all British people should come together against the horror and barbarism being perpetrated by ISIL and similar groups worldwide.

The terrorist mass-murderer, Seifeddine Rezgui, was clearly a loser who became a monster. The attacker’s title al-Qayrawani is carefully chosen: it claims that he is from Qayrawan or a graduate of it, an ancient Islamic city in Tunisia, and site of one of the oldest mosques and universities in the world. Hence the symbolism: a holy warrior, steeped in prayer and learning, slaughtering the Crusaders to protect them from “Muslim Tunisia.” This illustrates the utterly delusional, fantasy world of ISIL, although unfortunately, given the right conditions, there are millions of people seduced by this stupid and monstrous, ahistorical narrative. In reality, “Muslim Tunisia, a 99% Muslim-majority country, has an overwhelmingly secular constitution, approved by a coalition of post-Islamists and Muslim secularists, and this “Muslim Tunisia” is an enemy of ISIL, committed to protecting itself and its economy from being ravaged by ISIL madmen. Rezgui was clearly, utterly ignorant of the centuries-old ethical tradition of Islam, including in regard to warfare, never mind somehow being al-Qayrawani, or a graduate of Qayrawan, one of the oldest universities and centres of learning in the entire world.

Muslim Tunisian hotel workers saved the lives of their holiday-maker guests at the Imperial hotel. Muslim Tunisian doctors and nurses, including veiled and unveiled women, saved lives and treated the injured in the hospitals of Sousse. Crowds of Muslim Tunisians chased the ISIL fanatic, putting themselves in great danger, and some of them threw rubble at him from rooftops. It was Muslim Tunisian security forces and snipers who finally shot him dead, cutting short his rampage and saving many more lives. Since the massacre, crowds of Muslim Tunisians have rallied in protest against the massacre, carrying Tunisian and British flags, making heart signs in solidarity with the victims, and holding candlelit vigils in their memory.

This reality destroys the fiction entertained by both Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim bigots, that somehow Rezgui represents Islam or Muslims in any meaningful sense. It also illustrates the absurdity of linking this terrorism, overwhelmingly rejected by a 99% Muslim nation on the basis of their faith, to that faith itself.  Similar logic applied when terrorists murdered Muslim schoolteachers and schoolchildren last year in Peshawar, Pakistan, a 95% Muslim-majority country.  Just as no serious Brit associated IRA terrorism with Christianity, knowing the sublime ideals of that religion, no serious Muslim has any doubt about the disgusting, filthy nature of takfiri terrorism.  It is only to people outside the faith, often swayed by ignorance, fear and/or prejudice, that such questions are unclear. Westerners associating ISIL with Islam is equivalent to Easterners associating Breivik, with his symbols of the cross and crusade, with Christianity.  Neither position makes any meaningful sense.

Tunisia has produced the most ISIL foreign fighters ‎because of the relative success of the democratic process there: takfiris go abroad to live out their fantasies. In neighbouring Libya, the civil war provides ample opportunities for takfiri violence.

Thus, Muslim Tunisia has embraced democracy and secularism as antidotes to both dictatorship and islamism. This ISIL attack is a pathetic, cowardly attempt by childish, attention-seeking islamists to stop the consensus of the good people of Tunisia in favour of liberty, democracy and religiously-neutral secularism: the separation of mosque and state, a principle praised by one of the leading Sunni Muslim theologians of our time, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, in his Sina’at al-Fatwa as far back as 1428 / 2007.  A full translation of his arguments may be found in my essay, From Dhimmitude to Democracy, available elsewhere.

I end with my translation of a few selected phrases from the new Tunisian constitution (2014) that illustrates this “Islamic civil secular democracy”: for study, discussion and analysis. Note that this constitution has been endorsed by (the party of) Sheikh Rachid al-Ghannouchi [Rashid al-Ghannoushi], who has a Muslim Brotherhood background, but is effectively post-islamist:

Tunisia is a free, independent, sovereign state …

Islam is its religion. Arabic is its language. Democracy is its system …

It is a civil state, based on citizenship, the will of the people & the primacy of the law …

The people are sovereign, and are the source of authority, which they practise via elected representatives …

State slogans are: freedom, dignity, integrity, order. [hurriya, karama, ‘adala, nizam – all of which are maqasid or universal objectives of the ethical and legal tradition of Islam known as Sharia]

And because ISIL and their apologists do not believe in freedom, dignity, integrity and order, and have effectively lost the intellectual argument about the future of Islam, they will continue threatening their childish attacks and terrible violence whilst throwing a massive, global tantrum. And they will lose, because this madness is unsustainable in the face of the millions of decent, civilised people who will continue to stand strong for truth, justice, mercy and beauty, all of which are reflections of the Names of God, and will therefore always attract Divine help, intrinsically and extrinsically.

Interview with a Syrian opposition activist

March 11, 2012

Bismillah.  Better late than never.  The following is a brief interview conducted on 26th Ramadan 1432 (26th August 2011) with a Syrian journalist & opposition activist, Mohammad Fizou.  The questions and mobile phone number (registered in Turkey) of the interviewee were supplied by a UK-based journalist.  The line was quite poor, hence the brief interview.

1. You coordinate the Syrian Army Defectors’ Facebook page. How many defectors are there in total?

 We have 8,000 people on our Facebook page.  There is much more information on there about our members.

2. Which city do you come from?

I am from Ladhiqiyyah (Latakia).

3. What makes the defectors choose to do so?

They defected from the army (there are over 7,000 of them) because they were ordered to fire with machine-guns at unarmed, civilian protesters.

4. Have ex-soldiers been the only ones shooting at & killing army regulars, or have protestors engaged in violence against the regime at all?

The only people killing soldiers have been the regime’s people.  They killed soldiers who refused to shoot at civilians, and blamed it on the protesters in order to give the world media the impression that the regime had been attacked by the protesters.

5. Do you want a no-fly zone like in Libya, or will you and your men be able to fight against the regime yourselves?

We have about 7,000 men but the regime has many times that number, as is well-known.  Therefore, we need as much support and help as possible.  The Syrian regime’s aircraft have been bombing civilian protesters, so any action that will stop them will be very important.

6. There are different groups of ex-soldiers, such as the Free Officers’ Movement led by Hussain Harmoush and the Free Syrian Army led by Col. Rifal al-Assad.  Is there any plan for them all to come together and form a united army against the regime?

These movements all have the same aim, and therefore they are united in purpose.  They tend to be regional, i.e. composed of defectors from different parts of the country.  The regime tries to make out that we are disunited, but we are not.  We all have the same demands, as the protesters do: stop the killing; stop the massacres; let us have reform.

7. How credible are the Turkish Army’s threats to establish a safety zone inside Syria? Will this affect the revolution, do you think?

Turkey is a friendly country, as are its people and its army.  We would welcome help from any friendly countries, such as Turkey or Britain, since they would not be invading or occupying our country.  But Turkish soldiers have not entered Syria.  The Syrians have fired repeatedly on Turkish troops and have even launched rockets into Turkish territory, but the Turks have not retaliated.  The Turks gave the Syrians a 15-day ultimatum to stop firing on them – this expired yesterday evening (25th August 2011), but the Turks haven’t taken any action in response.

Thank you for your time & answers.

True Story of a Survivor of Terrorism – Sayra Mobeen

March 3, 2012

Bismillah.

This relates to the twin suicide attacks at the International Islamic University of Islamabad in October 2009.  One of the targets was the women students’ cafeteria.  (Here is BBC and Guardian coverage.)  An injured survivor of that attack has written a brief piece about her experience, over two years later.

I received this from Major (Retd.) Tahir Wadood Malik, who was featured along with IIUI survivors in a moving Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about terrorism in Islamabad: City of Fear.  His comments are given below, followed by Sayra’s story.

Sayra Mobeen is a student at the International Islamic University at Islamabad. she was badly injured in the twin suicide attacks in the university on 20th October 2009.

The extent of trauma can be seen by the fact that it has taken her over two years and lots of persuasion to write her story.

May Allah help us all to overcome this menace of extremism that we are faced with in Pakistan, aamin.

If you have any comments or want to send her a message, these will be passed on to Sayra Mobeen.

Thank you Sayra, our prayers, and support for you and your friends will always be there.


Victims & survivors of terrorism, please come together to ‘speak truth to terror’
Pakistan Terrorism Survivors Network, Islamabad, Pakistan
http://paktsn.webs.com/

True Story of a Blast Victim

SAYRA MOBEEN

Student BBA (Honors)

Islamic International University Islamabad

The morning of 20 0ctober 2009 was delightful and astonishing for me not for the country; I was happy to go to classes for my studies and be with my friends. Ignoring the years of unending dilemma of Pakistan facing the threat of terrorism; that every face showed pain did not matter to me.

I am not a keen follower of the news, and that is why I could not feel the pain people faced by being in a bomb blast, or of losing a loved one in a terrorist attack.

The twin blasts in my University that day changed my life, as it was the first strike on women students in Islamabad. This incident left deep effect on my life. Bringing me face to face with a disaster which in its wake brought a lot of challenges for me.

Sadly I am a victim of that incident, and have been lucky to survive to tell my story, and look at life in a different perspective.

I remember that day after classes I came back in my hostel room at about 2:45 pm. My friend Umme Kalsoom came to my room and asked me to accompany her to the cafeteria, so I got up and we left.

We went to the cafeteria fruit shop but they had sold out the fruit etc. I don’t know why we were in hurry that day to go in the café, as we both ignored our class fellows who were sitting outside the café asking us to join them, and entered the main hall of the cafeteria.

We bought salad and some other eatables and sat inside the café on the left side of the hall, we still did not join our friends outside! We realized that we had not bought soft drinks so I went and bought these.

As I reached near the fountain in the hall, on my way back to our table, I suddenly heard a dreadful sound, and saw lots of smoke; my ears were deafened. I felt as if I had been hit by something forcefully. I was disoriented and fell down. The pain made me realize I was hurt and I could feel the pain on my body, arms, legs, forehead and chest. Later I found that the major injuries I received were on my chest.

Humble thanks to Almighty Allah that I was in my senses and tried to walk away from the cafeteria to save myself, but could not. I then saw my friends coming back to look for me; my shirt was full of blood which was coming from the wounds on my head and chest; when Umme Kulsoom  she saw me in this critical condition she started crying.

I asked Umme Kulsoom to look for my cell phone which I lost in this melee so I could call my family, she asked a female employee of café to look after me while she went to look for help.

I was feeling afraid because of the blast not for the pain or my injuries. The café staff told me I had severe injuries so I should go to the hospital, and tried to put me in a taxi, I refused because I did not want to go alone by taxi. The staff then left me and walked away, which hurt me more. I missed my family and friends and started to cry.

In the meanwhile my friends came looking for me, and picked me up, I was in great pain, and they took me to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. The doctors decided to undertake surgery because of the nature of my injuries. I was very afraid because I knew my family was not with me, and I did not know what would be the result of the operation. But that is perhaps what saved my life.

After initial treatment in the PIMS and in view of the nature of my injuries, I was sent to the Combined Military Hospital at Mangla Cantonment for treatment. I underwent treatment at Mangla and suffered lots of pain and surgical interventions, for approximately four months. During this period my family and I suffered a lot, as they had to arrange for a place to live at Mangla, and commute from Abbottabad to Mangla regularly.

My injuries were similar to the injuries that soldiers receive in the battle field. The doctors at Mangla took great pains to remove the pieces of shrapnel and other stuff in my body, but even then, they could not remove all, and some non-life-threatening pieces of the material that was used in the suicide jacket, are still in my body and will remain in me for my life. It hurts at times, but at least I am alive.

As I said I did not pay attention to news of bomb blasts when I saw it on television or read about this in the newspapers, therefore I could not assess the pain of others; especially those who suffered during terrorist or suicide attacks.

Since my ordeal, I can recognize the pain and difficulties of survivors and victims’ like me, and Alhamdolillah I can empathize with them and help them in their recovery from trauma.

This unpleasant incident did not close the door of life on me; it showed me the other and pleasant direction of life. I am happy, and grateful to Allah that I am passing my life normally, thanks to my family, friends, and many other people who helped me recover, and this has strengthened my belief in the saying that “obstacles come in life to polish one, or make one like a diamond.”

 

Three Upcoming Lectures in Cambridge, God-willing

January 31, 2012

Bismillah

1) Wednesday 1 February – The Libyan Revolution and its Future

Aref Ali Nayed in conversation with Edward Stourton

5.00 pm – 6:30 pm

Runcie Room, Faculty of Divinity, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9BS

Aref Ali Nayed is the Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates and was the Chief Operations Officer of the Libyan Stabilisation Team. In Cambridge as a Visiting Fellow with the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, Dr Nayed is in conversation with the distinguished BBC print and broadcast journalist, Ed Stourton.

A reception, open to the audience, will follow the event.

This event is FREE but booking is essential: book now at libya.eventbrite.co.uk or call 01223 763 013.

In February 2011, Islamic scholar Aref Ali Nayed took part in demonstrations in Tripoli, where he was born. There, he witnessed first-hand the brutality of the Libyan regime against its own people. Together with other religious scholars, Nayed established the Network of Free Ulema. In their first press release, on 19th February, they wrote, “STOP THE MASS KILLINGS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS IN LIBYA”. As the days progressed, their statements became more desperate, calling for international action, until on 2nd March, they called for the world to recognise Libya’s new Interim National Council and Government.

 Nayed was one of the first prominent Libyans to publically decry Gaddafi. He set up a Support Office for the Executive Team of the new National Transitional Council (NTC) in his Dubai premise, which worked around the clock towards the transition to NTC authority, working on matters which included humanitarian, financial, diplomatic, telecommunications and security issues.

In June, Nayed was appointed coordinator of the Tripoli Taskforce.  When Tripoli was liberated in late August 2011, the remit was broadened and he was made the lead coordinator of the Libya Stabilization Team.  Nayed’s team worked intensively and restored electricity, telecommunications, and water supply and fuel. In early August the NTC announced Nayed as the new Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and he was given possession of the Libyan Consulate buildings in Dubai. He was the first ambassador to be officially appointed under the NTC.

Dr Aref Ali Nayed is a Libyan Islamic scholar, and Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. He is also the founder and director of Kalam Research & Media, based in Tripoli, Libya and Dubai. Until the outbreak of the revolution in Libya he lectured on Islamic theology, logic, and spirituality at the restored Uthman Pasha Madrassa in Tripoli, and supervises graduate students at the Islamic Call College there.

Aref Nayed is also Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, Fellow of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute in Jordan, and was appointed to the Board of Advisers of the prestigious Templeton Foundation.

 

Cambridge Muslim College – Lecture Programme: Lent 2012                                                          

Cambridge Muslim College is pleased to announce its public lecture programme for the Lent Term 2012. The College welcomes distinguished speakers, each addressing a timely and scholarly topic.

Both lectures take place at the Runcie Room, Faculty of Divinity and will begin at 6.30 pm.

2) Wednesday 22nd February

The Islamic Garden: An Opportunity for ‘Bridge-Building’ Between Cultures

Emma Clark, Garden Designer and Senior Tutor, Prince’s School of Traditional Arts


3) Thursday 8th March

Images of People with (Mental) Disabilities in the Islamic Tradition

Mohammed Ghaly, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Leiden University

Reflections from Bosnia – by the UK Christian Muslim Forum

October 26, 2009

Bismillah. A piece of hope here, as the trial of the rabid killer Radovan Karadzic, butcher of Srebrenica, is delayed by his spoiling tactics. Let’s hope he gets his just desserts, as have Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Ceaucescu, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam before him.

Reflections from Bosnia

This is the most recent news item posted on our News and Events page. It never ceases to amaze me, the human ability to forge strong and sustainable friendship between strangers. Our journey to Bosnia was a testimony to this, both as a group of Christians and Muslims from the UK and among the Christians and Muslims of Bosnia.

Travelling to Bosnia was both a pleasure and a challenge to us all and a test of our faith. Bosnia, like many other countries that conflict and war has visited, is surely one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. War and genocide does not discriminate along lines of aesthetic beauty, it appears where it likes, making use of existing tensions and conflict. This is certainly true of Bosnia where unresolved conflicts of the past resurfaced during the war between 1991-1995. I would like to be writing here that those wounds caused by war are being treated sufficiently by those who have the ability and power to do so, but this is not always the case, and more needs to be done at both national and international levels to heal those wounds.

However, we as a group certainly witnessed the highest sort of faith, manifest in those wishing to heal the wounds between communities and make strong and lasting friendships. I witnessed this ability and desire to reconcile many times whilst in Bosnia, but those most memorable to me are an Imam and an Orthodox priest telling ‘Imam and Priest’ jokes whilst travelling with us. To be accompanied by an Orthodox Priest, an Imam and a Friar whilst visiting various different places of worship is certainly a picture of hope for Bosnia, a picture of hope that needs to be shared not only in Bosnia but among our culturally diverse world.

Our belief in forgiveness is often challenged as people of faith, and I would like to take this opportunity to present a challenge given to us as a group whilst visiting Srebrenica. A mother who had lost all her family in the Genocide in Bosnia asked “how can we forgive if no one is asking for forgiveness” one of the answers might be found in the fact that this courageous mother had returned to Srebrenica and was living among those people that might ask her for forgiveness.

What follows is an inscription found in the cemetery at Srebrenica:

In the name of God, almighty, merciful and compassionate, we pray that sorrow may turn into hope, that revenge may turn into justice, that mothers’ tears may become prayers, and that nowhere and never again will there be a Srebrenica.

Daniel Edge
Peace Worker

Other members of the group also wrote about their experiences. You can read the reflections of Catriona Robertson in her blog which contains many photographs from the week. We hope to add more from the others and invite them to let us have links that we can add to this piece.

Christian Muslim Forum
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