Showing posts with label Islamic Societies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islamic Societies. Show all posts

June 26, 2018

What the results of the 2018 Turkish elections tell us: a preliminary analysis

    Tuesday, June 26, 2018   No comments
While the Turkish president celebrates his re-election, we can reason that the results point to a difficult future for Erdogan and his party, due, in part, to Erdogan’s rhetoric that emphasized personality over ideas and loyalty over concern for the nation. 

September 7, 2016

Grozny Conference: The first international conference dedicated to answering the question: Who are the Sunnis?

    Wednesday, September 07, 2016   No comments
On August 25-17, more than 200 Sunni Muslim scholars from around the world convened in Grozny, Chechnya, to answer the question: who are the Sunnis? Representing the most prominent Sunni institution of learning and religious guidance, al-Azhar, the Grand Imam, Ahmed al-Tayeb, opened the international conference with a statement stressing the importance of reclaiming the true teachings of Sunni Muslims (Ahl al-Sunna wa-‘l-jama`a), which, he argued, have been corrupted by extremists and terrorists. This important event did not receive wide coverage because of the coordinated attack by religious and political leaders of Saudi Arabia who contended that the conference was meant to exclude Wahhabi Salafism
The conference is important because it started a conversation within the Sunni community about issues made taboo by Wahhabi Salafists and their political patron—the Saud family that rules Saudi Arabia. The kingdom used its huge wealth to redefine Islam by building religious institutions that preached Wahhabism disguised as Sunni Islam and publishing books on Islamic traditions that are derived exclusively from Salafism.

Saudi religious clerics accused the organizers of the conference of “dividing Muslims” and placing Salafism outside Islam. It is important to note, however, that the scholars attending the conference did not define who is “Muslim” and who is not. The conference's stated aims was to define Sunnism and religious groups that historically shaped Sunni Islam. Wahhabi Salafist scholars, on the other hand, preach that only Sunnis are Muslims and all other groups are deviant, heretic, and/or apostate. Scholars attending this conference, however, reject conflating Sunnism with being Muslim to the exclusion of all other religious groups:
Sunnis [Ahl al-sunna wa-‘l-jama`a] are the Ash`arites and the Maturidites in terms of theology (i`tiqad), the Hanafites, Malikites, Shafi`ites, and Hanbalites in terms of law (fiqh), and Sufis who adhere to Imam al-Junayd’s path in terms of ethics and practices.
This definition excluded Wahhabi Salafists from being Sunni simply because Wahhabi scholars disagree with it: Wahhabi Salafists consider Sufis (and followers of all other sects that are not Sunni) to be deviant, heretic, non-Muslim. It is that belief of exclusion (takfir) that is fueling and justifying the killings, beheadings, and civil wars. 

Saudi Arabia worked its sources to discredit the conference internationally. The Secretariat of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy(IIFA), part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference), which is controlled by the Saudi rulers, released a press release defining Sunnis, in meaningless broad terms to appear inclusive: 


The IIFA Secretariat also believes that the Ahlu-s-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaa‘ah is anyone who testifies that there is no deity except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, who respects the companions of the Messenger of Allah, who has high regard for members of the Prophet’s household and loves them.

The IIFA affirms that Ahlu-s-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaa‘ah is anyone who believes in the articles of faith, who is certain about the pillars of Islam, who does not deny any information that is self-evidently part of Islam,  including making lawful what is prohibited by religious law such as killing.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, Sunni Muslims are challenging the ideology that sustains the genocidal wars waged by groups like al-Qaeda and its derivatives who are waging wars with the intent to purge countries from people who are not followers of “true Islam” as they define it.

Islamic societies, including Sunni and Shia ones, need to interrogate some of the sources of modern Islamic teachings and practices. A conference like the one held in Chechnya is a good start. It constituted a legitimate voice directed at those who want to monopolize Islam in the name of orthodoxy and other labels of exclusion and racism.



Conference communique and recommendations:



July 6, 2014

Chaos and anarchy in the Middle East: How did it happen?

    Sunday, July 06, 2014   No comments


Takfīris' path to their "caliphate" is soaked with the blood of Muslims

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*



The most important event of the summer might end up being ISIL’s (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) declaration that it has restored the caliphate. For the second time in the past two decades, Salafi Islamists have gained territory and resources to establish a communal entity reflecting their idea of an Islamic state. In the mid-1990s, the Taliban, aided by Saudi and Arab fighters led by Bin Laden, routed fellow Mujahidin to establish the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. The Emirate ended when U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Two weeks ago, ISIL, aided by frustrated Sunni Arabs and former Baathists, led an armed assault on the northern provinces of Iraq, linking them to territories in Syria under its control.

June 20, 2014

Niyaz, brilliantly and deliberately building bridges through time, space, and cultures

    Friday, June 20, 2014   No comments

(Music and band performance review)


 Members of the band Niyaz are similar to the music they produce: stunningly eclectic. They represent different ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds. Their music resurrects ancient arts and give life to words spoken in different tongues.

February 8, 2014

How different are the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt?

    Saturday, February 08, 2014   No comments


How different are the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt?

The two countries transformed first by the Arab Spring now have new constitutions. The two countries are similar in many ways. Yet, the processes of producing their respective constitutions and the substance of each document point to the forces that made these legal documents similar in some areas and different in others. In both cases, it took more than two years to reach this point, underscoring the difficulty the drafters of the two documents have faced.

Notably, the Tunisian constitution was drafted by an elected body (Constitutional Assembly), whereas the current version of the Egyptian constitution was “edited” by an appointed committee after the deposition of the post-revolution (elected) president Mohamed Morsi. The Egyptian constitution, however, was endorsed by Egyptian voters, while the Tunisian constitution was adopted once it was endorsed by the majority of the members of the Constitutional Assembly.

January 9, 2014

Syria’s rebels’ premature harvest and the moral crisis of militarism

    Thursday, January 09, 2014   No comments


ISIS fighters executing a civilian

On November 14, 2013, Abd al-Kader al-Saleh, commander of the powerful Tawhid Brigades, died. He was injured in an earlier airstrike that killed several of his group’s top leaders. In a matter of days, al-Tawhid Brigades—one of the armed wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria—descended into chaos. Its surviving leaders claimed that the Syrian army could not have carried out the deadly strike without inside help. They promised to avenge their leaders and purge the rebels of anti-revolution elements. At that moment, the seed of dissent among Islamist groups sprouted. 

September 27, 2013

Harsh Qatari Labor Conditions Move Center Stage As FIFA Debates World Cup

    Friday, September 27, 2013   No comments
By James M. Dorsey*
Controversy over conditions for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in Qatar involved in the construction of World Cup-related infrastructure as well as for flight attendants of Qatar Airways, the 2022 tournament’s likely official carrier, has moved center stage as world soccer body FIFA prepares to debate next week the Gulf state’s hosting of the 2022 soccer tournament.

July 16, 2013

Between the two camps, Egypt's media outlets have chosen to take sides in the ongoing tragic split

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013   No comments
by Ahmed Magdy Youssef*
 
Egypt's last two weeks’ incessant events not only gripped the minds and hearts of the Egyptians, but they captured the interest of the national and international media as well.

For many Egyptians, mostly those who filled public squares across the country to demand Mr. Morsi's removal and early presidential elections, the military's intervention on July 3 was inevitable to save the most heavily populated Arab country from slipping into a civil war.

July 4, 2013

Iran New President: Breaking Hard diplomatic Moves of the Past

    Thursday, July 04, 2013   No comments
by Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr.*

Recent development in Iranian presidential election demonstrate that socio-economic forces in the country were invisibly making serious efforts to make sure that a newly- elected president will address the pressing economic hardship being experienced by Iranian people.

Such an economic hardship was a result of both Iranian previous government misguided economic policy and Western economic sanctions which targeted the Iranian economy. Therefore, the new administration in Iran must not only revisit previous economic policy and institute reform in its economy but also and most importantly should use a more moderate language in its foreign policy.

June 30, 2013

Narratives of War in Islamic Societies

    Sunday, June 30, 2013   No comments


Whose side is God on?
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Abstract: The so-called Arab Spring ushered in a new era of conflict that is transforming Islamic societies in unprecedented ways. In the past two years, peaceful protests ousted some of the most ruthless dictators of the Arab world. Then, violent rebellions destroyed communities in Libya and Syria, stifled the non-violent movement, and amplified sectarian tensions by interjecting God into some of the most gruesome conflicts. By looking at the Syrian crisis as a case study, in this article I explore the function of narratives in managing war and the nature and evolution of Islamism in Islamic societies.

________________
Those who think that the Syrian war could be ended by simply sending either side more weapons and more fighters are mistaken. Weapons are only tools of the battlefield. Now, as is has been throughout the history of war, the more important key to winning a war is developing a compelling narrative.
Over the past two years, each of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict has promulgated a different narrative to justify the war. 
 

June 25, 2013

Election of new Iranian President brings new opportunities

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 If stability in the Middle East is important for the U.S. national security, and if Iran is a major force in the region, it follows that the U.S. administration ought to diplomatically engage Iran to stabilize the region and decrease the tension that threatens world peace and security. On June 15, a new Iranian president, was elected. Reacting to this news, the White House released a statement saying in part that, “[y]esterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly.  However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.” 

April 8, 2013

Interview of President Assad with Turkish Media

    Monday, April 08, 2013   No comments
Interview in English translation:



Interview in Arabic: Watch video

The full text of the interview:


February 6, 2013

Leaders of the Islamic world are finally talking about minority rights and healthy dissent, kinda!

    Wednesday, February 06, 2013   No comments
 by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Representatives of 57 states, members of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), convened for their regular summit in Cairo this week. Among the notable attendees is the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The latter received a red-carpet welcome as Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, greeted him on the tarmac at Cairo International Airport. The event is historical since this is the first visit by an Iranian president to Egypt since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

December 16, 2012

Analysis: The failings of the process of drafting and adopting the Egyptian constitution

    Sunday, December 16, 2012   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The most convincing argument for rushing the vote on the new constitution is that having a new constitution will move Egypt from the transition stage into permanence and stability. True, a country governed by elected leaders under legitimate constitutional authority will shift the focus from politics to rebuilding. However, the constitution remains the most important document because it spells out the rules necessary for all other institutions and branches of government. Most importantly, it is the document that defines and protects individual and group rights. Because of the importance of the constitution, the process leading to its adoption should be deliberate, fair, and transparent. Several reasons suggest that the drafting and the vote on the Egyptian constitution will not bring stability as many hoped it would do.

1. In a country like Egypt, characterized by the presence of super-majorities and super-minorities (Muslims v. Christians, religious v. secular), the need to protect citizens’ rights becomes more urgent than in diverse societies. Minimally, given the Egyptian particulars, the constitution should be adopted only through super-majority vote, not a simple majority. A constitution passed by a slim margin of the vote represents the will of the simple majority, which is, in this case, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. It will be in the interest of most Egyptians to require a two-third or three-quarter threshold. Had that been the requirement, the drafters of the constitution would have been forced to rely on the input and support of more social groups and political parties. 

2. In Egypt, according to most recent data, the literacy rate is about 66 percent. That means that 34 percent of the voters do not know how to read the constitution. Moreover, the time between publishing the draft constitution and the first round of voting was less than 15 days. That is hardly enough time for those who can read to study it and decide in a deliberate way. This means that more and more people would have relied on their political, religious, and tribal leaders rather than on their own judgment. It is unfortunate that a crucial document like a constitution was adopted through proxy vote.

Given these and other reasons, it is understandable that many Egyptians see this constitution to be that of the Muslim Brotherhood, not that of all Egyptians. And because it is harder to pass amendments, it may require a new revolution to create a constitution by and for the majority of the Egyptians. If the constitution is approved by a simple majority of voters, the opposition would have no reason to abandon protesting the outcome and instability will persist.

Attachments: New Egyptian Constitution (Arabic)
_______________
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of a number of books and articles. Opinion herein are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

November 18, 2012

Why do Arab rulers want a ceasefire in Gaza but not in Syria?

    Sunday, November 18, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Deconstructing cruelty in Arab societies
On average, over one hundred people, many of whom are civilians, have died every day in Syria for the past 20 months. The Syrian government says that it is fighting terrorists financed by Arab rulers and the Turkish Islamist government. The rebels say they are fighting a non-democratic regime. Nearly twenty other Arab rulers govern without a public mandate. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.

For just five days now, Israel and Gaza armed groups have exchanged fire that has resulted in 70 people dead (67 Palestinians and 3 Israelis), over 600 hundred Palestinians wounded, and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. Since the firing of the first missile, the Arab rulers have pressed Egypt and Turkey to mediate a ceasefire and called on world leaders and international organizations to act “to stop Israeli aggression.”  The Qatari ruler, the main supplier of deadly weapons to Syrian militias, headed to Egypt to press President Morsi to help end the violence in Gaza. So what gives? Are Arab rulers finally giving up on violence and embracing peace?

November 5, 2012

US must abandon policies that cause terrorism

    Monday, November 05, 2012   No comments

by John B. Quigley

A  reset is in order for our policy in the Middle East.  From what the two candidates for the White House have said, neither seems to grasp the fact that current policy is fostering, not stopping, the violence we continue to face there. Hillary Clinton says we can’t protect our embassies and consulates in the Middle East with armed guards alone. She is right. But she proposes no solution. The only way we can function in the region is on the basis of a relationship that does not produce violence against us. We cannot in good conscience leave well-intentioned officials like Ambassador Christopher Stevens as targets over grievances that relate not to them personally but to our policies. 

Whoever wins the White House should order a fundamental rethink on the Middle East. Here is a modest agenda: get out of Afghanistan; Afghanistan will be no more capable of handling its own affairs a year or two from now. Not another American soldier should die there. Work with the governments that are emerging from the Arab Spring. Take seriously the aspiration of the Kurdish populations of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran for political solutions. Stop devastating communities in Yemen and in Pakistan by firing missiles from drone aircraft. The killing of civilians and low-level combatants is doing us more harm than good. We are generating new cadres willing to take up arms against us. Promote reconciliation in Syria by proactive diplomacy, before the two parties reduce Syria to something no one would care to govern. Our current approach on Israel and Palestine is the most significant spur to violence against us. General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples” in the Middle East. 

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