A shift in Islam – and beyond

0924 upfront dupfront demoracyWhat is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Taylor Luck’s cover story this week appears to be about a shift within Islam. From Jordan to Tunisia, Taylor sees seeds of political moderation taking root. The cataclysmic failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, together with broader trends in globalization, is prompting a rethink among many Islamic political activists. They are seeing that women’s rights, religious tolerance, and other democratic ideals can be a winning combination.

Yet the story also hints at a deeper and more universal question that faces not only Islam, but also Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and the core views of many other faiths. What is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Most readers of Taylor’s story will surely cheer the changes now affecting Islam. Women’s rights and the expansion of civil liberties are essential elements of human progress. But change the focal distance, and the comfortable acceptance of cultural change in some distant place can become more unsettling closer to home. If modern cultural forces are bringing a welcome breeze of enlightenment to Islam, then why are such forces sometimes seen as threatening religious traditions in other places?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 

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The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco

lead_960“The women scholars here are even more important than men.”

Morocco is in a region vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, but it hasn’t had a significant attack on its own soil since 2011, when terrorists bombed a Marrakesh café. Yet ethnic Moroccans have been at the center of ISIS attacks in Europe. The only alleged survivor of the 2015 Paris rampage is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin; his trial began last week. The men behind the Brussels airport and tram bombings that happened months later were also ethnic Moroccans. The suspected driver of the van that mowed down shoppers in Barcelona was Moroccan-born.

Some 1,600 Moroccans are thought to have joined extremist groups, mainly ISIS, since 2012, with some 300 still fighting with ISIS, according to Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Although these figures are low compared to, say, Tunisia’s—some 7,000 Tunisians joined the group over the same period—the death toll in Europe has brought into focus the need for prevention and Morocco has come to play an outsized role in the debate over how, exactly, young people can be stopped from embracing radical Islam.

It’s one of many countries around the world experimenting with various “countering violent extremism” (CVE) or de-radicalization programs. As Maddy Crowell noted in The Atlantic, “Germany, Britain, and Belgium have developed programs that focus on further integrating radicals into their community. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, focuses on finding jobs and wives for recruited jihadists.” But programs that reach people once they’ve already been radicalized might come too late. “The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, told me. “What does that look like? It looks like early intervention and not necessarily and maybe not ideally by government officials.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making

02worldview-3-master768WASHINGTON — It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

julia_ioffeby Julia Ioffe

The world’s oldest religions all have troubling histories of bloodshed. Singling out Islam is just Trump’s latest, hateful hypocrisy.

Angel with a gun
Angel with a gun

 

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

True Islam: Muslim community works to introduce principles of faith

true islam

The violent narrative of groups such as ISIS and the Taliban thrives on ignorance of Islam, said Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Rashid pointed to the example of Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the terrorist bombings of Paris. “The lawyer of the suspect called his client ‘an ashtray,'” Rashid said. Belgian attorney Sven Mary described the suspect as having “the intelligence of an empty ashtray — an abysmal emptiness,” according to an April 27 report by The Washington Post.

“Mary said Abdeslam’s radicalization probably happened online,” the newspaper report continues. “He said the young extremist had scant knowledge of Islam. ‘I asked him if he had read the Quran, which I have done, and he said he had read his interpretation on the Internet,’ the lawyer said.”

Two days later, Rashid spoke at the University of Arkansas on behalf of the school’s Al-Islam Students Association.

“Extremists like ISIS depend on people’s ignorance of Islam to grow,” Rashid said. “That’s why the more people know about Islam’s true teachings — and what Muslims truly believe — the less they’ll fall for ISIS’s propaganda.”

Rashid presented what he called a “counter-narrative” to the message of ISIS. True Islam is a campaign by the Ahmadiyya community to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the teachings of the Quran.

The True Islam website lists “The Eleven Points” of Islamic doctrine, backed up by references from the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith. Each participant is asked to endorse each point individually. Rashid asked his audience to support the True Islam campaign by endorsing the points from their cellphones while he spoke.

“Endorse the parts you agree with and join our campaign,” he said. “Ask about those you don’t agree with.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NW ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT GAZETTE 

BOLD: Female Arab journalist asks, ‘What if Christians were suicide bombers?’

nadine-al-budairDOHA, Qatar (Christian Examiner) – A female Arab journalist who lives in Qatar has penned a bold article that asks Muslims in the Middle East how they would respond if Christian suicide bombers struck their public markets, collapsed their tall buildings or tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Liberal Saudi journalist Nadine Al-Budair writes in Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper that Arab countries have refused to address the problem of terrorism and have yet to create a climate that matches the liberal, humanitarian climate of the West. She asked Muslims to consider what their world would be like if Christians the world over had responded to Muslims the way terrorists have spread radical Islam.

“Imagine a Western youth coming here and carrying out a suicide mission in one of our public squares in the name of the Cross. Imagine that two skyscrapers had collapsed in some Arab capital, and that an extremist Christian group, donning millennium-old garb, had emerged to take responsibility for the event, while stressing its determination to revive Christian teachings or some Christian rulings, according to its understanding, to live like in the time [of Jesus] and his disciples, and to implement certain edicts of Christian scholars,” Al-Budair writes in atranslation of the editorial provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

 Al-Budair asks her readers to imagine Christian priests calling Muslims infidels over loudspeakers and chanting that God has demanded their deaths. She also writes they should also consider what would happen if Arab countries had provided Westerners with entry visas, benefits, modern healthcare only to have them turn on their hosts to kill them in the name of religion – likely a reference to the San Bernardino attacks carried out in December 2015.

“These images are far from the mind of the Arab or Muslim terrorist because he is certain, or used to be certain, that the West is humanitarian and that the Western citizen would refuse to respond [in this manner] to the barbaric crimes [of the Muslim terrorists],” Al-Budair writes. “Despite the terrorist acts of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, we [Muslims] have been on [Western] soil for years without any fear or worry. Millions of Muslim tourists, immigrants, students, and job seekers [travel to the West] with the doors open [to them], and the streets safe [for them].”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER 

Should we call it ‘radical Islam’?

151122185121-01-belgium-1122-exlarge-169John McWhorter teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy and music history at Columbia University and is the author of “The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

John McWhorter(CNN)Republicans who despise Democrats such as Hillary Clinton for describing America as in a battle against “terrorism” rather than “radical Islam” need to get out of the sandbox. Their charge is, at heart, childish.

The gripe is that Clinton, President Barack Obama and others, in refusing to say we are battling radical Islam, are too caught up in political correctness to even call our enemies by name. The further implication is that our leaders’ reluctance to directly call out our enemies stems from not truly considering them culpable — i.e., believing that the West had it coming.

No. The complainants think that as long as we say “radical Islam” rather than “Islam” alone, we are suitably specifying that we don’t hate Muslims. But that isn’t how it would appear to Muslims themselves, and for understandable reasons.

In a sentence such as “We must eradicate radical Islam,” the object of eradicate is technically “radical Islam,” yes, but the core object, the heart of the expression “radical Islam” is “Islam.” Radical Islam is a kind of Islam. The object of the eradication in the sentence is “Islam,” modified by “radical.”

That affects how one processes such a sentence — the adjective can come off as a kind of decoration. “I’m thinking about one of those juicy steaks” — note how we process the person mainly as thinking about steak, not steaks with the particular quality of being juicy. The “juicy” feels parenthetical.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN