Archive for the ‘Islam and Politics’ Category

Ta Grain Agam ar Thatcher Fos

December 3, 2008
Prince Bandar with Margaret Thatcher

Prince Bandar with Margaret Thatcher

Trespassing on Peaceful Sands — Marryam Haleem

Spring 1981
Bobby Sands on hunger strike in prison, dying
Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher in Saudi Arabia, visiting

Addressing the Saudi government
Who hosted her

He lay there on his side
Paled, eyes glazed, and weakened,
Battered, bereft, belied.
And you sit in the company of his killer.

In the very land where he was born –
The mantled one, opposer of the oppressors–
You honor and uphold that lady of scorn.
And the boy lay dying in dignity.

Read the rest of the poem.

Bobby Sands Street -- Tehran, Iran

Bobby Sands Street -- Tehran, Iran

You can read a piece here on how the Street became named Bobby Sands Street here. It ran in front of the British Embassy and was previously known as Winston Churchill St. I’ve got issues with both Shi’i theology and left wing ideology, but …..
that’s a beautiful thing.


Esquire Magazine: What it Feels Like…Guantanamo Bay

October 11, 2008

Apparently, Esquire Magazine has a series in which they print short reflections on “What it Feels Like…” A few months ago they ran one by former Prisoner at Guantanamo and one by a former Guard.

I am continually amazed about whatever little information I get about the prisoners at Guantanamo because I am always so impressed by them. Of course it makes me feel even worse about what has happened and is happening to them and makes me feel even more angry, but it also makes me feel good to claim the same faith as them and inspires me to hopefully be a better Muslim myself. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising as it is well known that Allaah (swt) tests the ones He loves most with the greatest of burdens….and it is Allaah (swt) that will reward them with the greatest of rewards.

What it Feels Like….to Be a Prison Guard at Guantanamo Bay

By Christopher Arendt, 24, Student

I liked working night shifts, because whenever they were awake, I wanted to apologize to them. When they were sleeping, I didn’t have to worry about that. I could just walk up and down the blocks all night long.

There was usually one detainee who would lead the call to prayer at five in the morning. That person was in the very last cell. The detainees, they sang beautifully. It was so eerie to hear, because it was such a beautiful song, and to hear forty-eight detainees just get up in the morning and, in unison, sing this gorgeous song that I could never understand — because Arabic is way out of my range of possibility — it was really intense.

Camp Delta is on a cliff that overlooks the ocean. I had never been to the ocean before in my whole life. There have been a few times in the military when I’ve been so stricken by the juxtaposition of how awful what is happening inside the moment is, and how aesthetically beautiful it is at the same time. Seeing the first couple detainees start preparing for prayer, and then at the same time the sun starting to come up over this cliff base — that was probably one of the most confusing moments of my life.

Every day you walked down the blocks, forty-eight people in two rows of twenty-four cells, and you have no idea what any of them are there for. They’re just sitting in their cells. You give them food, and if they get crazy, you spray them with this terrible oil-based chemical. Then you send these five guys in to beat the shit out of them.

I grew up in Charlotte, Michigan. This was the first time that I ever met any Muslim person before in my life. My family lived in a trailer in a cornfield on a dirt road. I enlisted when I was seventeen, on November 20, 2001. Oh, my God, I met a lot of new people by enlisting.

I had bought two pornos before I left for Cuba, and I had no idea that I would get so depressed that those wouldn’t even interest me. I ended up cutting them up, and I put the remnants of the pornos all over my wall. I made a wallpaper on my half of the room of all these like really grotesque pornographic photos. My mom had sent me a packet of dinosaur stickers, so all of the particularly obscene shots I covered with dinosaurs, and I would just sit and stare at that for a long time.

During the span of a few months, I worked maybe half the time on the blocks. It wasn’t a whole lot of time, but it was really starting to break me down. I couldn’t deal with it. I tied a 550 cord to the ceiling fan that was in my room and I tried to hang myself, but I ripped the fan out of the ceiling. I’ve never been happier about poor construction. That was about two months before we went home.

One thing I miss is the cups. The detainees were only allowed to have Styrofoam cups, and they would write and draw all over them. I’m not totally familiar with Muslim culture, but I did learn that they don’t draw the human form, and I’m not positive if they draw any creatures, but they draw a lot of flowers. They would cover the things with flowers. Then we would have to take them. It was a ridiculous process. We would take the cups — as if they were writing some kind of secret message that they were somehow going to throw into the ocean, that would get back to somebody — and send them to our military intelligence. They would just look at these things and then throw them away. I used to love those little cups. —As told to Lily Percy

What it Feels Like…to Be a Prisoner at Guantanamo Bay

By Murnat Kurnaz, 26, Author, Activist

They used to beat everybody. There was a man — he was really old and couldn’t see and couldn’t hear. If the guards told him something to do and he didn’t do it because he couldn’t hear, they went into his cage and beat him up. They did this for a couple minutes, and after that they took him out and brought him to isolation. That happened to me as well, a lot of times.

There doesn’t need to be a reason. First they would use a pepper spray. It’s burning. It is hot. You have trouble breathing and opening your eyes. All of your face is burning — your eyes especially and inside your nose. You can’t open your eyes because they are burning very hot. Since you have trouble breathing, you have to cough all the time. Then they’d punch me with their elbows. After they were done, they would write something down as to what could be the reason for it.

We were allowed to do the call to prayer every day, but they used to play music over us at the same time. The music some of the time was rock music, but most of the time they played the [American] national anthem. Or they used to kick the doors.

The worst thing about being in Guantánamo was having to live in the small cages. Most of the time there was nothing in there with me. Sometimes I had only my shorts on and nothing else. Nothing else except my shorts and myself.

I never lost my hope, of course. Not losing my hope is an important part of my religion.

Read an excerpt from Kurnaz’s book Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo at

Murat Kurnaz

Murat Kurnaz

The Last Third of the Night by Marryam Haleem

September 3, 2008

This poem is from cageprisoners.

Marryam Haleem has a blog here.

In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-giving


The Guantanamo Bay

Detainees who, I pray,

Will stay on the straight path

And never dismay

Of God’s reward on the Last Day

The Last Third of the Night

Curled on my side

Cheek soft on my pillow

I listen, wide-eyed,

To the crickets chirping

Constant, ceaseless, unending

So unaffected by my heart-rending

Thoughts that are

Constant, ceaseless, unending

On his back, he lays

On a hard board

Listening to the waves

Rush in roaring

Constant, ceaseless, unending

So removed, uncomprehending

Of his heartbeats that are

Constant, ceaseless, unending

I rise from bed

Fixing my mind

On a kind of relief

That will ease my plight.

It is, I know, the last third of the night


Thought for the Day From Padraig Pearse

September 3, 2008

Especially for the Muslims and Mujahideen of Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Palestine, Mindanao, and in every place and for all those who resist tyrannical empires, in whatever way, all over the world.

This is from the statement of Pearse at the courtmartial conducted after the 1916 Rising. Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic at the Dublin General Post Office on 24 April 1916. On 29 April 1916 Pearse surrendered on behalf of the Volunteers to the British army to prevent further civilian loss of life. After the courtmartial he was executed on 3 May 1916 by firing squad.

“From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced that while it lasted this country could never be free or happy. When I was a child of ten, I went on my bare knees by my bedside one night and promised God that I should devote my Life to an effort to free my country. I have kept the promise. I have helped to organise, to train, and to discipline my fellow-countrymen to the sole end that, when the time came, they might fight for Irish freedom. The time, as it seemed to me, did come, and we went into the fight. I am glad that we did. We seem to have lost; but we have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on its tradition to the future. I repudiate the assertion of the Prosecutor that I sought to aid and abet England’s enemy. Germany is no more to me than England is. I asked and accepted German aid in the shape of arms and an expeditionary force; we neither asked for nor accepted German gold, nor had any traffic with Germany but what I state. My object was to win Irish freedom. We struck the first blow ourselves, but I should have been glad of an ally’s aid. I assume that I am speaking to Englishmen who value their freedom, and who profess to be fighting for the freedom of Belgium and Serbia. Believe that we too love freedom and desire it. To us it is more than anything else in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again, and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland; you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.”

The Wicked Reality of Jahilliyah

August 30, 2008

The following article from the Pakistani paper Dawn, gives a chilling and dramatic reminder of the persistence of Jahili (pre-Islamic ignorance) attitudes that continue to prevail amongst many amongst of the Muslims. Of course, if anyone really does believe that it is permissible to bury Muslim women alive or to kill them for wanting to marry someone of their choice, that person regardless of what their name is or how many generations their descendants have been Muslims is not a Muslim at all and has nothing to do with Islam. Anyone who believes that reported tribal traditions, whether those are actually tribal traditions or not, can take precedence over the Shari’ah has nothing to do with Islam and is a quintessential example of Jahilliyah. Such people must be fought and opposed in every way possible by those who are indeed Muslims.

One should note the role of the heroes of the West in this horrific crime. It is alleged that a Pakistani People’s Party (the party of Bhutto) official was involved in the incident and this wicked clown who defends the action in the Senate is a member of a Baluchi tribal party. It was of course widely celebrated in the West as a sign of great progress when these tribal parties were elected in the NWFP instead of members of the Islamist coalition. We see the Islamist Maulana Ghafoor Haidari is cited in the article as speaking in the truth in the Senate about such actions having nothing to do with Islam. Of course, we need much more than just talk…whoever has any ability or power from the Pakistani government to any other organized groups with capability in those areas should deal with any people involved in such barbarities in such a way as to make clear to everyone that this is not accepted, excused or understood in any way.

May Allaah (swt) accept all of those sisters who were killed as martyrs and enter them into the highest level of al-jannah and may those guilty of participating in or covering up or defending this act in any way live in constant fear until the Day of Judgement when the Creator of the Heavens and Earth will take revenge upon them on behalf of those sisters and that is the Day when Justice will truly be done.  And I pray that we work in whatever way we can to be able to be in a condition where we can defend our sisters and until then we know that we, too, must live in fear that we will be punished for standing by and doing nothing while such actions and all the daily oppressions of Muslim women that go on all over the world, more than 99 percent of the time perpetrated by those with the nerve to call themselves Muslims as well.

Burying of women alive defended in Senate
By Ahmed Hassan
ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: Balochistan Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri stunned the upper house on Friday when he defended the recent incident of burying alive three teenage girls and two women in his province, saying it was part of “our tribal custom.”

Senator Bibi Yasmin Shah of the PML-Q raised the issue citing a newspaper report that the girls, three of them aged between 16 and 18 years, had been buried alive a month ago for wishing to marry of their own will.

The barbaric incident took place in a remote village of Jafarabad district and a PPP minister and some other influential people were reported to have been involved. The report accused the provincial government of trying to hush up the issue.

Ms Shah said that the hapless girls and the women were first shot in the name of honour and then buried while they were alive. She also said that no criminal had been arrested so far.

Acting Chairman of Senate Jan Mohammad Jamali, who was presiding over the session, said: “Yasmin Shah should go to our society and see for herself what the situation is like there and then come back to raise such questions in the house.”

Maulana Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F said there was no tradition of burying women alive in Baloch society because it was against Islam’s teachings.

Jamal Leghari of PML-Q emphatically stated that there was no custom of burying people alive, adding that the Baloch people did not believe in it.

Senator Jan Jamali commented: “This is a provincial matter and it is being investigated at the provincial level and let us wait for the report of the investigation.” Leader of the Opposition Kamil Ali Agha accused the Balochistan government of ignoring the incident and said no jirga could order the burying of women alive and no law allowed anyone to commit such a crime and go unpunished. He urged the government to punish the people involved in it.

Leader of the House Mian Raza Rabbani said: “We condemn the heinous act and assure the house that a complete report on the incident would be submitted on Monday.”

Sayyid Qutb

August 28, 2008

Sayyid Qutb (rahimuAllaah) was hanged by the Egyptian government on August 29, 1966.

You can read Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki’s thoughts on Sayyid Qutb’s work “In the Shade of the Qur’an” here.

I also encourage everyone to check out this post on Sayyid Qutb by sister Marryam Haleem.

Here is an excerpt from Qutb’s tafsir of Surat Al-Burooj from “In the Shade of the Qur’an,” translated by Adil Salahi.

“Reference to the event starts with a declaration of anger with the tyrants: “Slain be the people of the pit.” (Verse 4) It also gives an impression of the enormity of the crime which has invoked the displeasure and anger of God, the All-Clement, and which makes Him threaten the perpetrators. We then have a description of the pit: “The fire abounding in fuel.” (Verse 5) The literal meaning of ‘pit’ is a hole in the ground, but the surah defines it as ‘the fire’ instead of using the term ‘trench’ or ‘hole’ in order to give an impression that the whole pit was turned into a blazing furnace.

“The perpetrators aroused God’s wrath for the evil crime they committed: “When they sat around it, watching what they did to the believers.” (Verses 6-7) They sat over the fire, in the actual vicinity of the horror, watching the various stages of torture, and madly enjoying the burning of human flesh in order to perpetuate in their minds this ghastly scene.

“The believers had not committed any crime or evil deed against them: “They took vengeance on them for no reason other than that they believed in God, the Almighty, to whom all praise is due, to whom the dominion of the heavens and the earth belongs. But God is witness of all things.” (Verses 8-9) That was their only crime: they believed in God Almighty who deserves praise for every situation even though ignorant people do not do so. He is the Lord who deserves to be worshiped, the sole sovereign of the kingdoms of the heavens and the earth. As He witnesses all things He has witnessed what the tyrants did to the believers. This verse reassures the believers and delivers a powerful threat to the tyrants. God has been a witness and He suffices for a witness.


The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State by Noah Feldman

August 27, 2008

Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University begins this work by pointing out that when “government systems fall, they tend to stay dead.” Few people are worried about a comeback of monarchy or communism. Yet there are exceptions. Feldman mentions that the concept of “democracy” was resurrected after two thousand years of laying dormant and that the Islamic State, which existed in some form from the time of the Hijrah of the Prophet (saw) in 622 CE until the First World War, is, a hundred years later, everywhere gaining popularity amongst Muslims as the hope of the future.

Feldman is an excellent writer and is very skillful in distilling complicated historical and legal concepts in ways which are intelligible to the average educated reader while still remaining substantive. Feldman begins the book by trying to describe what the Islamic State was, that is, to take a brief look at Islamic constitutional theory as it developed over those 13 centuries. Feldman is writing primarily for a western audience and he realizes that most of his audience will come to the topic thinking of Shari’ah as almost the quintessential example of a legal system which is backward, barbaric and tyrannical. This modern western perception comes from the triumph of secularism in the west and from a domination in the western mind of a few corporal punishments in Islamic criminal law and some gender related issues as being the only thing the average westerner thinks of when he or she thinks of Islamic Law, or the Shari’ah. This is of course, not accidental but the result, in addition to general ignorance, of the purposeful distortion and propaganda against Islam and the Shari’ah that is not only a recent phenomenon but which has been part of the long rivalry between first Islam and Christendom, and later Islam and “the West.”


Alternative Visions — Part IIA (Amer Haleem)

May 20, 2008

Part I of this Series is here.

The issues I am discussing in this series are ones in which I have long been interested. However, I was driven at this time to actually write up some thoughts on these issues and to try to communicate and promote discussion around two powerful recent contributions. In this article I will discuss an amazing 14 page cri de coeur in Al-Jumuah Magazine from one of the most challenging thinkers and speakers on the Muslim scene here in the U.S. Amer Haleem. (The other is from Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki and will be discussed in Part III.)
Ustadh Amer Haleem titles his essay “Children of a Mixed Message: How the Generational Dynamics Have Weakened the Muslim Community in America and Made it Harder to Raise Our Families.” AlJumuah Magazine is in the midst of a “year long meditation on the Muslim Family.” Haleem’s article contains a lot of food for thought and so I will just try and touch on some of the major issues in this post. Haleem includes a brief historical analysis of the Muslim community here in the United States, discusses what he sees as a rather bleak present, but closes with an optimistic note of faith in the possibility of “miraculous” change within our community and within a single generation. Haleem describes all of this through the lens of generational dynamics and the American framework of the Baby Boomer — Gen X — Millenial Generations labels.

Amer Haleem certainly is highly qualified to write on this topic due to his many years of experience with Islamic activism in America at many different levels from the grassroots to the highest echelons. Most of his time in more recent years has been spent assisting in the mammoth Qur’an study and translation project carried out by his teacher Shaykh Ahmad Zaki Hammad. The major product of this work released to the public is “The Gracious Qur’an: A Modern Phrased Interpretation in English” (2 Volumes).

The fact that Amer Haleem is unhappy with the direction of the community and its leadership and is unafraid to express his concern in the best Islamic tradition of nasiha is clear to anyone who has heard him speak in recent years. One can check out this article describing a speech he gave at Northwestern University almost a year ago to see the type of prophetic speech which he embraces. In this essay, Haleem contends that “the major spiritual dynamics and forces of social change within our Muslim American community….have rather systematically escorted our community down American society’s secular escalator rather up through the traditional spheres of Islam’s insistent social justice and the stations of spiritual elevation well-marked by our polymath Muslim predecessors…” Haleem continues, “Take a good look at who we Muslims in America are becoming and what’s become of us. The most significant aspects of our life and identity–like our personal and communal worship of God, virtually all the signs of meaningful relationship with Him, and our intramural coummunity cohesion and family conditions–have deteriorated not improved, and dramatically so, over the last decade. The vast majority of us do not practice Islam.” As one continues through the thought process of Haleem’s essay, it is clear that this is not a matter of blaming the masses of Muslims who have taken this course, although of course each one of us in the end is responsible for our own soul, but of calling into question the leadership dynamics and choices which, Haleem argues, have contributed greatly to this reality. (more…)

Alternative Visions — Part I (Introduction)

May 18, 2008

Anyone who is even marginally active in the Muslim community here in the United States and who has been so for even just 15 years (as I have) would probably notice the following. The Muslim community in the United States is an incredibly diverse one, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of involving both immigrants and indigenous, in terms of socio-economic class and income levels. Especially before the events of September 11 and what has followed, it was not at all unusual to see “radical” religio-political understandings of our current situation and what Islam has to say about it in ‘mainstream’ Muslim fora, even where such views would not normally be seen in mainstream fora outside the Muslim community (with the possible exception of the Black American community — about this more later in the series if not in this post).

Although a diversity of views can still be found amongst the Muslims for the one who desires to search, it would seem that as a certain segment of Muslim leadership has moved to try to join the mainstream political discussion and processes of the country, that Muslim leadership has coalesced (or is at the least beginning to coalesce) around a certain vision of the role of the Muslim community here in the United States. I will try to identify certain statements that I find representative of this consensus in the process of this series but for the purpose of this introductory post let me state that the Vision promoted by this leadership seems to focus around the following major themes:


Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim: Islam and the Secular State

May 14, 2008

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a lecture a couple of weeks ago given by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim. The event was sponsored by the Loyola University Islamic World Studies Program (directed by Dr. Marcia Hermansen, translator of Shah Wali Allah’s Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) and co-sponsored by the Chicago Muslim Bar Association. I am extremely grateful that the sponsors allowed me to attend a dinner with Dr. An-Naim after the event where I was able to discuss his ideas in a little more detail and I hope they didn’t regret it based on the fact that I heatedly disagreed with Dr. An-Naim on some issues. May Allaah (swt) forgive me, I am generally extremely calm and mild-mannered but when that Irish temper gets going, it’s all over!

Dr. An-Naim discussed his new book Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari’ah. There is a lecture about the book available on Dr. An-Naim’s website as well. I have not read the book yet, so I am just tentatively addressing some of the issues that came out in discussion, and I pray I do not misstate or misrepresent Dr. An-Naim’s postion in any way.

As background, Dr. An-Naim is an extremely prolific scholar based at Emory University in Atlanta. He writes on a wide variety of Islamic and African issues. He comes from the background of a political activist and has a strong ‘progressive’ outlook. I use the term here in the sense of politically progressive and not to necessarily associate him with the “Progressive Islam” movement or mode of thinking. Although as I state, Dr. An-Naim is very prolific as a scholar he is best known to me as being a former student of Ustadh (Teacher) Mahmoud Taha. Dr. An-Naim also translated one of Taha’s works into english. I have not read Taha’s work either, but he was an opponent of and was executed by a Sudanese dictator who used religion as a justification for persecuting Taha. Again, I have not read it so I don’t claim to understand the ideas in their entirety or in depth, but they do seem to be unorthodox. One point usually emphasized in discussing these ideas is that the Makkan suras of the Qur’an (revealed pre-hijrah or before the Prophet(saw) had any political power) are a universal message valid for all times and peoples while the Madinan suras (revealed while the Prophet (saw) was a political leader) were in their specifics directed towards that particular time and place and those specifics are not necessarily binding for other times and places. Something that probably doesn’t sound too controversial to the non-Muslim modern western ear but which is, as I said, very ‘unorthodox’ to Muslims.