Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Historic Moment In Kashmir Dispute?

Pakistan and India have agreed a deal allowing for the opening of the line of control to enable relief items as well as families to cross the border into Pakistan.

Not only is this an important step in itself, but perhaps as significantly it was agreed despite today's terrible bombings in Delhi.

Normally I treat such agreements with caution as it seems that progress is always undermined by increased tension between the two countries in the aftermath of things such as terrorist attacks.

The fact that the bombings did not derail the negotiations suggests a maturing of the relationship between the two states and gives me cause for optimism that further progress can be made in the future.

In the meantime, more needs to be done for the earthquake survivors. For an interesting idea check out this piece.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers Withdraws!

Maybe I'm being overly cynical but this seems like a tactical ploy to try and divert attention away from the Fitzgerald findings/indictments coming out tomorrow. The question is, will it work?

The Left and The War on Terror

As someone who considers myself left of centre, acknowledges a 'certain degree of western culpability for spawning groups like al-Qaida', but at the same time feels that prominent polemicists such as Tariq Ali, John Pilger and Robert Fisk focus too heavily on America at the expense of analysing islamo-fascism, I found this piece by Sasha Abramsky at OpenDemocracy articulating many of my views on the fight against terrorism.

As Abramsky says, the analysis of the left is truncated as it stops at a critique of America and assumes that,
'groups like al-Qaida are almost entirely reactive, responding to western policies and actions, rather than being pro-active creatures with a virulent homegrown agenda, one not just of defence but of conquest, destruction of rivals, and, ultimately and at its most megalomaniacal, absolute subjugation.'

In my opinion this 'blindspot' also applies to things such as humanitarian intervention by Western Governments in places like Kosovo and the notable lack of outrage over the lack of action in Sudan.

In terms of finding a response to balance security and maintaining constitutional protections, Abramsky rightly argues that unless those on the left take part in this debate and come up with solutions as to effective and just measures, the likes of Wolfowitz, Cheney, Kristol and Rumsfeld will be able to 'frame the terms of the discussion as they see fit' to disastrous results. Merely critiquing the policies of the 'neo-conservative cabal' will not help fight terrorism or win political power and it is high time that those on the left begin formulating positive policies of their own to respond to the changed realites of the world we live in.

Interesting Muslim Legal Scholar

Have read an article by Abdullahi A. An-Na'im and am currently awaiting delivery of his book 'Towards an Islamic Reformation'. I will post my thoughts on the book as soon as I've finished reading it but before then there is an excellent review on Amazon which I suggest that people read.

From everything that I've read about him so far, it seems that Professor Naim is an extremely important Muslim scholar whose work should be read and engaged with by all those interested in the future of Islam.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

True Wisdom

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist," - Winston Churchill, November 21, 1943, describing what is now legal and constitutional in the United States, under president Bush.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Heading Towards A Real Truman Show??

It's getting closer.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Muslims, Faith and Sharia Law

The implementation of Sharia Law is a rallying cry issued by traditional Muslims and Islamists from London to Lahore. One argument used by moderate Muslims to argue against Sharia is the point that Sharia as we see it today is largely the implementation of Muslim values by 10th and 11th century jurists to the world that they lived in. Since then the gates of ijtihad have been closed and there has not been much jurisprudential development to update Islamic law so that it can provide guidance in the modern world.

I would not disagree with this, but I think that it is difficult to win the argument against traditionalist Muslims if the debate is shaped in the above terms. Therefore I would ask those Muslims who would like Sharia law the following.

You usually have the most public displays of faith and religion, but if you are so confident of your faith then why do you find it necessary to impose your notions of piety upon other Muslims and Non-Muslims? Surely you believe that on the Day of Judgement you will meet your creator and that he will judge you on the way that you have lived your life - whether you were pious or not, as he will all other people.

However the system of government that gives you the greatest opportunity to practise your religion as you believe you should is a liberal democracy where people of all faiths are given the choice to follow or not follow a religion. If you are a Sunni Muslim then you may well be persecuted in Islamic but Shia Iran. If you are a Shia or an Ahmadi Muslim then you might well be persecuted in Islamic but Sunni Saudi Arabia. We all saw the indiscrimanate nature of the Taliban who didn't seem to give any regard to due process and individual protection.

This is an example of where John Rawl's 'veil of ignorance' comes in. If you did not know whether you would be born Shia or Sunni or Ismaili or Christian, you would hope that the society that you were being born into was one in which all people had equal rights to follow their consciences and to practise their religion. If you were able to live a moral and pious life then I do not think that a benevolent Almighty would send you to hell for not forcing other people into believing what you believed.

There are usually some critiques of this point of view. People argue for example that in a society where lets say girls are allowed to wear miniskirts, there is a corrupting influence which prevents others from freely practising their faith. Among other things though, how does this relate to the ever increasing number of young Muslims 'in the west' who are wearing the hijab and keeping beards. Surely in a society in which they are free to choose they are choosing to live as pious Muslims.

Perhaps one of the reasons why such an argument as projected in this piece is difficult to get across is that there is very little doubt amongst some Muslims that their religion amongst all others is correct. This is despite the fact that scientific advancements and Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection amongst other things cast about the existence of a supreme creator. Of course they don't prove that a creator does not exist but they do add that element of doubt.

I think (hope) that once this doubt enters Muslims minds, instead of reactionary rejection of new(or indeed old) ideas then while still having faith they will not be so quick to try and push their views on others leading to a more open discourse as to the role of government in a Muslim society and hopefully help end the oppression of those millions of Muslims who happen to be minorities within Muslim majority states.

More Info On Earthquake

For an excellent account on the difficulties faced by aid and rescue workers from someone who has first hand knowledge of the area as well some positive comments on the nation's response to the tragedy Irfan Hussain's column in Dawn is well worth reading.

Earthquake News

It seems that the Earthquake in South Asia has gone off the front pages of western newspapers a lot quicker than the tsunami. This is probably due to the fact that firstly the tsunami occurred during the holidays when a lot of people were glued to their television sets and secondly that a lot more people had been to or knew people who had gone to Indonesia in particular.

I'm bringing this up not to diminish the effect of the tsunami but to keep people informed that public generosity as well as pressure on governments must be maintained as the Himalayan winter begins to take hold in a very inaccesible mountainous region.

Most estimates now have the death toll at over 50 000 and the number of homeless and ill at 2.5 million. This is a staggering amount and as Andreas Whittam Smith argues in today's Independent, the most pressing concern is helicopters. So far America has contributed 10 while Britain despite all of Tony Blair's humane rhetoric has contributed 0. If someone has an idea as to how many Coalition helicopters are currently in Afghanistan, please post a comment.

Meanwhile to end on a positive note, here is a truly inspiring story.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Earthquake Relief

Just blogging to encourage people to donate to the earthquake relief. If done within the next couple of days the money will have its greatest impact.

Also I thought I'd link to this. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a silver lining - the rescued children will have lost almost all of their friends, but amidst the thousands dead it is at least something.

Friday, October 07, 2005

You Can Not Be Serious ?!?

Shocking headline in the Times of India (via IndiaUncut)

Wishful Thinking Anyone?

Incredibly optimistic article by Gerald Baker in the times.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Science, Punditry & The Blogosphere

Liberal, secular democracies are based significantly on science and a rational way of looking at the world. Unfortunately I think that too many pundits on both left and right completely ignore the scientific method i.e. carefully gathering facts and then coming up with theories which explain test results or coming up with theories which are then subject to serious scrutiny when doing their analysis.

I worry that the blogosphere is exacerbating this as people, rather than exploring different ideas keep going back to the same blogs thereby reinforcing views which they already have instead of challenging themselves. As a result, bloggers have I think begun to write to appeal to their audience. On the other hand, mainstream newspapers despite their faults at least provide a variety of content with commentators of different political persuasion. Of course I may be wrong so if those of you who read this blog for instance feel that my comments on the blogosphere in particular are inaccurate please let me know.

P.S I'll put some quotes up by some of the great scientists on the scientific method up in a bit.

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