Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Muslim scholars say ‘Islamic State’ is un-Islamic

February 24, 2015

 Last September more than 120 well-known Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the self-declared “Islamic state,” and his followers rebutting their claim to represent Islam.

This is old news, but it is new to me.

These scholars included Sheikh Shawqi Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and All Palestine.

In Islam, there is no equivalent of a Pope or a church council that can rule authoritatively on religious doctrine.

Instead Islamic rulers are expected to conform to the teachings of religious scholars, when these scholars are all agreed.  So this letter is as authoritative as it gets in Islam.

∞∞∞

Here is the executive summary of the letter, translated from Arabic into English.

1.  It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements.  Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts.  It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter.  In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.

2.  It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.

3.  It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.

4.  It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.

5.  It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.

6.  It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.

7.  It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

8.  Jihad in Islam is defensive war.  It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.

9.  It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.

10.  It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.

11.  It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

12.  The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

13.  It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

14.  It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

15.  It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.

16.  It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.

17.  It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.

18.  It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

19.  It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God.

20. It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

21.  Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.

22.  It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

23.  Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

24.  After the death of the Prophet, Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

Muslims believe the Qu’ran (Koran) is a transcription of God’s revelation to Mohammad.  The Hadith are sayings of Mohammad.   Shari’ah is Islamic law, and a fatwa is a ruling under Islamic law.

LINKS

Muslim Scholars Release Open Letter To Islamic State Meticulously Blasting Its Ideology by Lauren Markoe for Religion News Service.  (Hat tip to Jack Clontz)

English translation of the complete Open Letter to al-Baghdadi.

 

Is the Islamic State contrary to Islam?

February 20, 2015

Is the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) un-Islamic, as President Obama has said?  Or can we best understand the Islamic State as part of Islam as a whole?

It’s not for me, or for President Obama, to say who is a true Muslim and who isn’t.  But the facts are that the vast majority of Muslims, including those who think it is right and just to kill blasphemers who insult Islam, are horrified by the killing of harmless people.

0618-ISIS-Iraq-gulf_full_600The reaction of the Iranian ayatollahs to the 9/11 attacks is a case in point.  In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini called upon all Muslims to kill the author Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous depiction of Mohammad in his novel, The Satanic Verses. 

But in 2001, his successor, Ayatollah Khameni, strongly condemned the Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  Apparently, for him, suppressing blasphemy is one thing and killing the innocent quite another.

I of course condemn blasphemy laws and fatwas against alleged blasphemers.  At the same time I can understand the distinction.

Graeme Wood wrote an enlightening and frightening article in the March issue of The Atlantic on the apocalyptic religious reliefs of the Islamic State, but falls for their claim that they represent a more authentic version of Islam than that held by the vast majority of Muslims.

Mohammad was a warrior as well as a prophet, but neither he or his immediate successors went around be-heading people on a regular basis.  The rule of the first Islamic caliphs was in fact tolerable for most Christians and Jews because all they had to do was pay a special tax.

(more…)

Darwin’s theory and American exceptionalism

January 20, 2015

20150119_differnt_0Source: Calamities of Nature via Zero Hedge.

As this chart shows, we Americans are less likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution than the people of any European nation.

Oddly, though, we are more likely to believe in social Darwinism (although we don’t call it that)—the idea the law of life is survival of the fittest, and society does not exist so that people can cooperate for mutually beneficial ends, but so that the population can be sorted into winners and losers.

(more…)

Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolence

January 19, 2015

.

.

We Americans honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as one of our national heroes, but the only thing we remember that he stood for is that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skins.

That’s important, of course.  But many of us tend to forget his strong advocacy of economic justice and, even more, we forget his strong commitment to nonviolence, or rather mass defiance as an alternative revolutionary violence.

I am not a pacifist, as Dr. King was.  I do not believe that war is always wrong.  But the stronger reason is that I do not have the moral strength to following his teaching.  I am unable to live up to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels to love my enemies, resist not evil and do good to them that hate me.

The amazing thing about Dr. King was that he was able, for a short time, to persuade large numbers of Americans to fight without violence and to win.

Considered purely pragmatically, the nonviolent techniques of struggle advocated by Gene Sharp and practiced by Saul Alinsky have been at least as successful as revolutionary violence.

Alinsky’s career in particular is evidence that successful use of nonviolent techniques did not require Christian love or the turning of the other cheek.

My impression is that many black Americans today regard Malcolm X as a more manly role model than Dr. King.  Yet Dr. King made governors and presidents bow to his will, while Malcolm X’s struggles were mostly with other African-Americans.

This statement is not completely fair to Malcolm X, because he was murdered when his work had only just begun while Dr. King was struck down after he had accomplished most of what was in him to do.

But the fact remains that the Black Panthers and other advocates of armed struggle were much more easily crushed than the followers of Dr. King.

The power of oppressive elites is the power to compel obedience.  Their power ceases when the oppressed cease to obey.  I admit that’s easy for me to say when I’ve never put myself at physical risk in any struggle, nonviolent or otherwise.  But I believe it’s true.

(more…)

Different laws for different religions?

January 12, 2015

In colonial Maryland, relations between Catholics and Protestants were so tense that there were laws that defined an insult to either religion as a breach of the peace.

In the Ottoman Empire, people of different religions lived side-by-side in peace for centuries, all governed by their own religious laws and leaders, subject only to paying taxes to their Turkish rulers.

Dmitry Orlov thinks that such arrangements are the key to peace in countries in which Muslims and non-Muslims live together.

The only solution I see is a duopoly, where Moslems and non-Moslems run their respective segments of society according to different sets of rules.

Some rules they must have in common, such as a ban on incendiary, extremist speech. The prohibition against “shouting fire in a crowded theater” applies to such arrangements.

Vladimir_Putin_and_Gusman_hazrat_IzhakovExamples of such arrangements being successful include the Republic of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) where Orthodox Christianity and (majority) Islam coexist peacefully, and mixed marriages can offer a choice of religions to the children they produce.

Another example is the Republic of Chechnya (also Russian Federation) which, having fought a bloody separatist conflict financed by the Saudis and the US, can now successfully combat Islamic terrorism on its own, without involving federal authorities.

Russia is now a dual Christian/Islamic federation; if current demographic trends continue, then at some point it will become an Islamic/Christian federation. So be it. If peace is maintained, nobody will notice or care.

France can embrace the same choice, forming Les Républiques Françaises, and probably will, because what choice does it have—other than losing the war?

via ClubOrlov.

A thoughtful proposal, but I have problems with it—even assuming that dual law works as well in Tatarstan and Chechnya as Orlov thinks it does.

(more…)

Terrorism and the true face of Islam

January 11, 2015
Two Muslim heroes, Ahmed Merbet and Lassana Baithily

Two Muslim heroes, Ahmed Merabet and Lassana Bathily

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslim organizations and leaders all over the world condemned the attackers, and yet there were those who said the Muslim world was silent in the face of the attacks.

Now Muslims all over the world condemn the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and there are still willfully-blind people who say the Muslim world is silent.

The main enemy of the extremist Muslim terrorists are mainstream Muslims.  According to Global Terrorism Watch, about 80 percent of terrorist killings last year were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, all predominantly Muslim countries.  Only 5 percent were in Western countries such as France.

The best hope for the terrorists is to convince other Muslims their campaign is part of a larger struggle between the West and Islam as a whole.  To the extent that people interpret the Charlie Hebdo attacks in terms of that narrative, the terrorists will have succeeded.

When people blame Muslims in general for terrorism, they forget Ahmed Merabet, the Paris policeman killed by the terrorists while trying to prevent the attacks.  And Lassana Bathily, the clerk in a kosher grocery store who saved Jewish customers by hiding them in a freezer.   They, not the terrorists, should be regarded as the true face of Islam.

∞∞∞

45 Examples of Muslim Outrage About Charlie Hebdo Attack That Fox News Missed by Katie Halper for Alternet.

QOTD: Hezbollah and Hamas by Heather Digby Parsons for Hullabaloo.  The leaders of both Hezbollah and Hamas condemned the attacks.

Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim Police Officer Killed in the Charlie Hebdo Shooting by Jim Edwards for Business Insider.

Paris policeman’s brother: ‘Islam is a religion of love.  My brother was killed by terrorists, by false Muslims’ by Emma Graham-Harrison for The Guardian.

Muslim Man Hailed as Hero in Kosher Grocery Store Attack by Charlotte Alter for Time magazine.

 

Religion and the burden of proof

January 11, 2015

The late Carl Sagan used to say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

What makes something an “extraordinary claim”?  For Sagan, a humanist and freethinker, the reality of the supernatural, of supernatural religion or of anything outside the scientific consensus was an extraordinary claim.

I think this is perfectly reasonable.  I, too, have made up my mind about certain things, and it would take extraordinary evidence to shake my conviction.

But for a great many people, it is atheism that makes the extraordinary claim and must assume the burden of proof.  They include:

  • prayer11People who are committed to certain religious practices and disciplines because they find them a good way to live.
  • People who’ve had transcendent spiritual experiences, and find the religion is a way to make sense of those experiences.
  • People who find that religious practices help them to deal with their troubles.  Members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs are examples.
  • People who admire someone who is wise and good, and adopt that person’s religious practice to become wiser and better themselves.

(more…)

The passing scene: January 4, 2015

January 4, 2015

Scavengers by Adam Johnson for Granta.

Adam Johnson walked down the stairs of his North Korean tourist hotel because he did not trust the elevator, and discovered that most floors of were unoccupied and scavenged for furnishings in order to keep up appearances on the few floors on which the tourists stayed.  This is one of the glimpses his article provides of the reality of life in North Korea.

Remembering the Russian Orthodox Priest Who Fought the Orthodox Church by Cathy Young for the Daily Beast.

Father Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest who died on Christmas, fought for democracy, Christian values and freedom for all religions against Communist totalitarianism and Putinist corruption.  He was defrocked twice for protesting and exposing the ties of the Russian Orthodox church with the Soviet government.

Religion in Latin America by the Pew Research Center.

Pentecostalism is on the rise in a historically Roman Catholic region.  The worldwide spread of Pentecostalism may be the most significant religious development of our time.

Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose for First Things.

A Secular Age? by Patrick J. Dineen for The American Conservative.

Secularism in the USA does not war on religion, the way anti-clericalism has done in France, Mexico and other countries.  American secularists simply want religion to be an individual matter rather than the organizing principle of society.  In a way, American secular liberals are the ultimate Protestants.

(more…)

Notes on religion: Links & comments 10/5/14

October 5, 2014

The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson by Wyatt Mason for The New York Times Magazine.  (Hat tip to Anne Tanner)

The Christian essayist and novelist Marilynne Robinson deplores the American culture of fear, our failure to appreciate the wonder of life and of humanity, and our unwillingness to talk about the things that concern us most.  I like Robinson’s books and I thought there was a lot of meat in this interview.

The Myth of Religious Violence by Karen Armstrong for The Guardian.

The late Christopher Hitchens said religion spoils everything.  Karen Armstrong says religion is spoiled when it is weaponized to serve non-religious purposes.

In Medicine We Trust by Brian Palmer for Slate.

A secular humanist faces up to the fact that Christian medical missionaries are the largest group of people on the ground fighting the Ebola plague in west Africa.

Cultivating a gratitude practice

September 7, 2014

This is from A Way in the Woods: awakening and mindfulness

In all my years of following the Buddhist path, there has been only one teaching that made me cringe.  Whenever I heard it, my reaction was, “Are you kidding me?!”  Here’s the story:

Buddha is approached by a monk, who asks for advice regarding desire.  It is distracting him from his spiritual practice, not to mention his life.  What should he do? 

quote Buddha unknown source by H.Koppdelaney on Flickr 7758674308_ba9df335eaBuddha’s response is to tell him that it is important to remember that seeing our desires fulfilled always leads to suffering.  Once we get what we want, we’re afraid we’ll lose it—which, when you think about it, we always will in the end.  Better to know that the less we pursue our desires, the less we’ll suffer.  So far, so good.

The monk thanks him for his advice, then mentions that he will be heading out for the village of Sunaparanta. 

Buddha is taken aback.  He asks the monk if he knows that the place is known for its “fierce roughness”—what will he do if they abuse and threaten him?

The monk responds, “Then I shall think these people are truly kind in that they did not give me a blow with a fist.”

But Buddha can’t leave this alone. What if they do punch you?

The monk says, then he will think that they are truly kind because they didn’t hit him with a clod.

Well, what if they hit him with a clod?

He’ll be grateful that it wasn’t a stick.

What if it was a stick?

They were truly kind to not stab him.

And if they did stab him?

Well, at least they didn’t kill him.

What if they did kill him?

The monk’s response is to tell Buddha that he knows that there are some monks who, “being humiliated by the body and by life, sought death.”  He would consider himself lucky to find death without seeking it.

Are you kidding me?!

(more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 663 other followers