Showing posts with label Souaiaia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Souaiaia. Show all posts

November 6, 2016

What is the difference between “Muslim” and “Islamic”?

    Sunday, November 06, 2016   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *

Abstract: Social labels and categories are exercise in control. They describe opponents, create boundaries, exclude social groups, justify discrimination, and promote persecution. They are imbued with sociopolitical power. Muslims used labels, internally for the first time, during the formative period of the community to privilege the elite and marginalize dissenters. They called those who challenged the established order, Khawarij [Outsiders]. Today, Muslims living in Western societies are often labeled radical Islamic extremists. But aside from this politically charged phrase, even common adjectives, such as Islamic and Muslim, are misused. So in what contexts should these adjectives be appropriately used and why is it important to use social labels judicially?___________

Though even advanced students and scholars of Islamic studies use the words Muslim and Islamic interchangeably, it is a mistake to do so in all contexts. The two words are both adjectives, but they have fundamentally different meanings and are properly used in very different contexts.
The word Muslim [مسلم] is Arabic in form and function. It is a descriptive active participle [ism fā`il] derived from the verb, aslama. This Arabic form connotes agency being embedded within the description. Therefore, it describes a person or a group of persons who consciously follow or adhere to the religion called Islam [الإسلام]. Since it is an Arabic term in origin, form, and meaning, the word should be used in the context appropriate in that language. The word Muslim is never used in Arabic to describe a thing, and idea, or an event. Rather, it is used to describe human beings who believe in and practice Islamic teachings. It is therefore incorrect to say Muslim architecture, Muslim music, Muslim art, Muslim thought, etc.
The word Islamic is an adjective that takes its meaning from the fact that it reflects some characteristics of Islam, in varying degrees. It can be used in two contexts. First, the adjective Islamic describes things, ideas, and events whose origins are in Islam. In this sense, it complements the adjective, Muslim, which describes persons. Second, the word Islamic can be used to describe things that are present in Islamic societies and cultures, even if their origins are not rooted in Islam or produced by Muslim peoples. The Islamic civilization came to existence because Muslims’ ideas and ideals were dominant, but they were not the sole engines that produced its rich legacy. Therefore, the adjective Islamic was broadly used to account for all the productions of this civilization, authored by all--Muslims and non-Muslims.
It must be noted that it is possible to apply the adjective Islamic to a person or group of persons, but such use must be deliberate. For example, some people often ask the question, "are you Islamic?", Instead of, "are you Muslim?". This is a common mistake. However, it is possible that the questioner used Islamic as it is used in Arabic, islamiyy [إسلاميّ], in which case it would mean Islamist (discussed below). Such use would be appropriate, though unlikely to be the intended meaning.
To illustrate the different usages, let’s consider the phrases Islamic architecture and Muslim architecture. The phrase Islamic architecture refers to architecture that is broadly influenced, limited, inspired, informed by Islamic values, even if it is produced by non-Muslim persons. Islamic architecture might consist of purely Islam-inspired elements, but it might also consist of elements that are not inspired and influenced by Islam or Muslim architects. By contrast, the term Muslim architecture is attributive, not descriptive. It refers to architecture created by Muslim persons. Where Islamic architecture is a broad descriptive term, accurate use of the term Muslim architecture requires a specific context.
With this distinction in mind, it becomes clear that the adjective Muslim is exclusive whereas the adjective Islamic is inclusive. Not all Islamic things are produced by Muslims, but Muslim-produced things must be things produced by individuals who are Muslim. A musician who is not Muslim may produce an Islamic song. A Muslim band, meaning a band whose members are all Muslim, may produce and play songs that have no roots in Islam or in Muslim communities of any era of any background. Though in both examples Islam is present through the expressions, experiences, and backgrounds of the persons involved, that link is insufficient to merge the two terminologies.
This distinction is not merely technical. Rather, the misuse of these terms reflects and perpetuates power structures that elevate Western colonial thought and diminish the rich cultural, political, and social legacy of Islamic thought and the many peoples who have contributed to it. Conflating the meaning of the words Islamic and Muslim forces some to invent new words to communicate aspects that are already embedded within the meaning of these words. I will cite three examples of unnecessary descriptors whose use creates other conceptual and practical problems. First I discuss the use and utility of the words Muhammadan, Islamicate, and Islamicist. Second, I explore the conceptual, practical, and theoretical implications of conflating the meaning of the words Islamic and Muslim and the ensuing general problems...



November 16, 2015

The Genealogy, Ideology, and Future of ISIL and its Derivatives

    Monday, November 16, 2015   No comments


Abstract: The organization known today simply as the “Islamic State,” or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh (English, ISIL), has historical and ideological roots that go beyond the territories it now controls. These deep roots give Daesh confidence that it will succeed in dominating the world, but give others reasons to believe that it will fail in controlling even a single nation. Mixing puritan religious and political discourses, ISIL managed to dominate all other armed opposition groups in conflict zones (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya) and has inspired individuals in many other countries (Egypt, Pakistan, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) to carry out brutal attacks in its name.
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Dogmatic Origins: Traditionism

February 20, 2015

Saudi and Qatari dilemma: Can they support al-Sisi in his war on ISIL and support ISIL in its war on Assad?

    Friday, February 20, 2015   No comments

 
GCC
When Prince Salman became King Salman, world leaders wanted to know about the man now controlling the country that exports more oil than any other, Saudi Arabia. Several leading publications claimed that the 79 year old king suffers from serious chronic illnesses. The Economist proposed that his predecessor, King Abdullah, had concerns about handing the crown to Salman because Salman may be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  The Atlantic, too, reported in 2010 that Salman suffered from dementia. The official reaction of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the intergovernmental organization that is supposed to represent the wealthy Gulf States but actually serves to promote Saudi interests and point of view, to Egypt's claim that Qatar supports terrorism, suggests that the King might be indeed suffering from dementia. The background for this story is as follows:

January 12, 2015

Where is the Outrage?

    Monday, January 12, 2015   No comments

Europe’s hypocrisy and latent racism displayed after the Paris attacks


On January 11, 2015, an estimated 1.6 million people walked the streets of Paris as part of a “unity march” in reaction to the recent attack in the French capital. Some 40 world leaders joined the march. Other high-profile individuals also recognized the attack and the march—for instance, George Clooney and other actors referred to the events as they received awards on January 11. “Paris is the capital of the world today,” declared Francois Hollande. 

December 23, 2014

“This is What the Arab Spring Looks Like”

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014   No comments


Tunisia’s transition to representative governance brings hope to Arab Societies




Four days after the fourth anniversary of the spark that ignited the fury of protests widely known as the Arab Spring, Tunisian voters reminded the world about what the Arab Spring is supposed to look like. The election of a new president this week capped four years of hard work that involved politicians and leaders of civil society institutions. In four years, Tunisians elected a constituency assembly primarily tasked with forming a transitional government and writing a new constitution. Those goals, despite many setbacks, were finally achieved. In the past three months, Tunisian voters elected a parliament, narrowed the field of presidential candidates (of more than 24 candidates) during a first round of presidential elections, and finally chose Beji Caid Essebsi, giving him 55% of their vote over the interim president, Mohamed Mouncef Marzouki.

November 16, 2014

Iran’s emerging institutional power and its effect on negotiations with the United States

    Sunday, November 16, 2014   No comments



On the eve of the Republicans’ takeover of the U.S. Senate and increased control of the House, the Wall Street Journal revealed, on the authority of anonymous sources, that President Obama had sent “secret letter” to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran took its time confirming it had received such a letter. The official confirmation ultimately came from the secretary general of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani.

October 12, 2014

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ought to be tried for crimes against humanity

    Sunday, October 12, 2014   No comments



by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 
ISIL attacks Kobane
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden angered some Middle Eastern leaders by making a true statement. Speaking at Harvard, Biden said that the U.S. allies were determined to overthrow Bashar al-Assad from power so they “poured hundreds of millions dollars, and tens thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against al-Assad, accepted the people who would be in supply for al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadists coming from other parts of the world.” Known for his blunt statements, Biden flatly admitted that U.S. “biggest problem is our allies. Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc...”

September 17, 2014

ISIL cannot be defeated militarily without addressing the roots of its genocidal creed and confronting its sectarian backers

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014   No comments

Less than a year after the start of the crisis in Syria, I warned that militarizing the Syrian uprising is a dangerous step. Picking sides and arming them would amount to  launching a new proxy-war similar to the one that took place in Afghanistan in the 1970's and 1980's. The danger, I reasoned, comes from the necessary outcome of using non-state actors as tools to destabilize other nations and adopting violence to escalate the confrontation with international political adversaries. Such escalation, generally, produces groups that cannot be kept under control as happened with al-Qaeda. Today, it has become evident that Syria is indeed a proxy-war zone that produced ISIL, an upgraded version of al-Qaeda, which was the byproduct of the proxy-war in Afghanistan. Such a new proxy-war will not be limited to Syria's border. Indeed, all countries involved in such a war, especially the ones sharing borders with Syria like Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, will face serious political and security challenges.

September 11, 2014

Combating ISIL should not be America’s business, it is Saudi Arabia's

    Thursday, September 11, 2014   No comments




ISIL is a global threat but it is a bigger threat to the Middle East than to U.S. homeland. It is a bigger threat to Muslims than to Americans because, until now, the absolute majority of victims are Muslims. The U.S. could be part of a coalition that should combat ISIL but it should not take the lead. Saudi Arabia should take the lead in fighting ISIL because Saudi Arabia helped create it in the first place. The ideology and practices of ISIL are derived from the brand of a religious tradition called Salafi Wahhabism that was founded in Saudi Arabia and promoted by Saudi preachers under the patronage of the Saudi ruling family. Therefore, the fight against ISIL is Saudi Arabia’s and the rulers of Saudi Arabia must be forced to take the lead in this war.

August 8, 2014

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses

    Friday, August 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 
The Arab Spring that freed some of the peoples of the Middle East from state imposed fear produced an existential challenge for increasingly heterogeneous communities, forcing people to define the nature of the state and the character of the country where they live. It is true that self-rule and self-determination require a sense of self. However, building stable countries in the new Middle East is tied to the peoples’ level of awareness of the genocidal impulse espoused by certain social groups amongst them. 

The old Middle East was built on an artificial foundation imposed by Western colonial and protective powers in the form of superficial liberal thought, imported Marxist ideas, petty ethnic identities, niggling tribal structures, and a variety of downwardly managed and imposed ideas. The regimes and political forces of the pre- and post-colonial periods exerted virtual monopoly on governing institutions in most Arab countries. During the second half of the twentieth century, Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, began to challenge nationalist, monarchical, and clannish regimes arguing that Islamism provides a more inclusive political ideology for the peoples of the Middle East than alien ideas or narrow Arabism.

July 29, 2014

Contextualizing David Ignatius' claim about "John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza cease-fire"?

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014   No comments


Contextualizing David Ignatius' claim about "John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza cease-fire"?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*


David Ignatius, a journalist with extraordinary access to the halls of power but apparently limited sound reasoning argued that John Kerry has committed a “big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza cease-fire.” He explained that “Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey.” Mr. Ignatius went on to provide a solution: “A wiser course […] would have been to negotiate the cease-fire through the Palestinian Authority, as part of its future role as the government of Gaza. Hamas agreed last April to bring the authority back to Gaza as part of a unity agreement with Fatah that was brokered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

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 8, 2014

Why have many Syrians voted for Bashar al-Assad and what is the U.S. administration’s alternative to elections it does not particularly like?

    Sunday, June 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Syrians vote, June 3, 2014.

Most Western governments and some observers argue that the elections that took place in Syria on June 3, 2014 were not legitimate because not all Syrians were able (or willing) to participate, they were held under war conditions, and Syrians were coerced into voting for the current president. These would be reasonable arguments if they were consistently applied. A brief examination of similar cases and relevant facts reveals that this is not the case.

April 28, 2014

To preview Syria’s future, consider Algeria today

    Monday, April 28, 2014   No comments




Algeria was destined to become an African powerhouse. The largest country in the continent, it is populated by only 39 million people but endowed with huge natural resources: 159 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and 12.2 billion barrels of proven natural gas and oil reserves, respectively, and vast expanses of land, desert, and mountains. A country rich with such resources should not have a problem building a sustainable economy. However, corruption and a brutal civil war similar to the one going on in Syria transformed Algeria into Africa’s most disappointing state. How and why did such a promising country sink so low?

April 13, 2014

Is Ukraine becoming for the West what Syria has been for Russia?

    Sunday, April 13, 2014   No comments





Riding the wave of protests known as the Arab Spring, many Syrians rallied to demand more political and civil rights. Without the hesitancy that characterized their initial reaction to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Western administrations and some of the Persian Gulf regimes immediately threw their support behind the protesters. Assad’s regime belonged to the so-called non-moderate Arab governments and the protesters offered the West and its allies an opportunity to overthrow it. They formed the “Friends of Syria” group, now consisting of only eleven nations, to provide the opposition with all needed support, including deadly arms, to achieve that goal. After three years of brutal war, Syria’s economy and society are severely damaged and its allies, mainly Russia, China, and Iran have invested a huge political, economic, and military capital to help the Syrian government survive. The Friends of Syria claimed that Assad became illegitimate because he killed Syrians. Assad claimed that he was fighting armed terrorists and thugs.

Now fast-forward to 2013. 

March 30, 2014

Obama in Saudi Arabia to talk security and terrorism; the Saudis seem prepared, but are they really?

    Sunday, March 30, 2014   No comments



The new Saudi anti-terrorism law is anti-dissent, anti-civil rights draconian law?
For weeks even before President Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have worked hard to make the summit successful. They knew that extremism, regional stability, and the Middle East peace process are high on the U.S. administration’s agenda. The Saudi rulers wanted to show that they are trustworthy, that they are fighting terrorism, and that they are a reliable and stable ally. Specifically, they will be showing President Obama two things: a new law that is supposedly aimed at fighting extremism and an unprecedented designation of an heir to the heir to the throne (Prince Muqrin—half-brother of the King).

March 9, 2014

Worried for their own security, the rulers of Saudi Arabia expand their own list of “terror organizations” and criminalize dissent

    Sunday, March 09, 2014   No comments




8 years in prison for tweeting
in support of a demonstration
Days after recalling its top diplomats from Qatar, Saudi Arabia published a list of organizations and activities that are deemed criminal and prohibited Saudi citizens and residents from joining or supporting such organizations. The two events might appear to be unrelated. In reality, the latter decision provides the proper context for understanding the former. Moreover, the list and the logic that produced it are intriguing. Here is a summary of the key points of this document followed by a short analysis.
 

February 25, 2014

Lack of real representation of Syrians doomed the Geneva meetings

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014   No comments


 
Two rounds of indirect talks between representatives of the Syrian government and some representatives of the Syrian Coalition have failed to launch a political dialogue to end the deadly crisis in Syria, now entering its fourth year. The failure was expected. Members of the opposition forces did not represent even the Coalition, many of whose members resigned before the meetings. Other opposition groups were excluded due to Western insistence that all opposition negotiators must come to the meeting under the leadership of the Coalition. That rendered the meetings meaningless. Moreover, the Coalition’s exertion of a veto over Iran’s participation while inviting Saudi Arabia--the main backer of the armed groups--killed all hope for ending the bloody conflict.

The so-called “Friends of Syria” are united in their dislike to the Syrian government and their desire to overthrow Assad. They are not united by their care for the Syrian people. That reality is evident from their financial and military support for armed groups when compared to their reluctance to admit Syrian refugees. The most ardent supporters of the armed factions in Syria have provided no significant support for refugees and admitted none. When they met early this year (January 14) in Kuwait, Western and Arab countries pledged only $2.4 billion to help Syrian refugees, by February 20, only 12% of that money actually came through. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who spent nearly $8 billion on arming and supporting the rebels, pledged just $60 million in humanitarian aid and they took in no refugees.
 

February 19, 2014

What President Obama should tell the Saudi rulers?

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014   No comments


 
President Obama
On the same day when Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree criminalizing Saudi citizens’ participation in the war in Syria (or joining Jihadi groups), the White House confirmed that President Obama will be visiting the Kingdom in March. It seems a reasonable assumption that during this v­isit, Obama will attempt to synchronize U.S. and Saudi diplomacy over two key issues: the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and the crisis in Syria. 

The agenda of the meeting in Riyadh could in fact be reduced to a single conversation about Iran, since Iran is also a key ally of the Syrian government. Rather than focusing on these issues, however, the President should focus on convincing the Saudi rulers to abandon their reliance on violent sectarian warriors to exert influence in the region and around the world, especially their support of religious zealots attempting to overthrow governments the Saudis don’t like. 

February 15, 2014

Breaking the Cycle: Could Iranian and U.S. officials overcome their mutual distrust?

    Saturday, February 15, 2014   No comments


Breaking the Cycle: Could Iranian and U.S. officials overcome their mutual distrust?


Rafsanjani and Khatami
After inking an interim agreement at the end of 2013, Iran and the P5+1 must now finalize a final nuclear agreement within six months. If they fail, U.S. and Iran will relive the cycle of mutual hostility in which the two countries have been entangled for more than three decades. Both parties seem eager to break that vicious cycle this time around. Iran has its own reasons: no actual interest in building nuclear weapons and strong interest in finding new markets and opportunities for its emerging economy. Western powers claim that the devastating effects of the harsh economic sanctions and the election of moderate Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, are the main reasons for optimism. Let’s examine both reasons in the context of historical facts.

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