First Things Online October 22, 2014
The flag of the Republic of Latvia. Every Muslim should stand up against Russian imperialism.
In May 2014, I attended an interfaith conference in Kosova where I met Janīs Priede, an associate professor in the department of Oriental Studies at the University of Latvia, located in the national capital, Riga. Having watched, from the Balkans, the Russian annexation of Crimea and further attempted partition of Ukraine during the first half of the year, I expressed my concern to Prof. Priede that Latvia, a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), could be the next object of aggression by Vladimir Putin. He agreed.
Continue reading Is Latvia Putin’s New Target? by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog October 21, 2014
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Recently, some media commentators have argued that, rather than the product of a simple confrontation between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the so-called “Islamic State” should be perceived as an eruption into those countries of Wahhabism, the only interpretation of Islam recognized as official in Saudi Arabia.
David Gardner of the Financial Times, for instance, blamed Saudi Arabia indirectly for the growth of ISIS, writing, “Jihadi extremism does present a threat to the kingdom. But in doctrinal terms it is hard to see in what way it ‘deviates’ from Wahhabi orthodoxy.” Others have implied or alleged that Saudi Arabia helps finance ISIS.
Continue reading Saudi Wahhabism and ISIS Wahhabism: The Difference by Stephen Schwartz
The Huffington Post October 16, 2014
Our sister, the honorable Muslimah Malala Yousafzai -- United Nations News photograph,
The award of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year old Pakistani female and youngest-ever Nobel laureate, in tandem with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, 60, a prominent activist for children’s rights in his own country, has various contexts.
One such involves Pakistani-Indian conciliation in the face of shared challenges. As the Nobel Committee affirmed, it “regards [the dual Prize] as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
“Extremism” touches on a wider aspect of the 2014 Peace Prize: the future of millions of women in the Muslim global community, or umma.
Continue reading Malala Yousafzai and the Future of Islam by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard October 20, 2014
Since Islam emerged more than 14 centuries ago, Mecca, near the western coast of the Arabian peninsula, has drawn the interest of the world. For Muslim believers, the city and its sacred mosque—which encompasses a high, cubical structure, the Kaaba—are the focus of spiritual devotion as the qibla, or direction of prayer, and a destination for pilgrimages. For non-Muslims, Mecca has long been enigmatic, as it has been closed to them since early in Islamic history. Ziauddin Sardar, a British Muslim of Pakistani background, has written an extensive history of Mecca. His panorama is somewhat limited, with attention focused on the great mosque and the Kaaba.
Sardar’s account of Mecca’s origins is based on conventional religious and historical sources, as is his treatment of Muhammad, who would make the city famous. The foundation of the Kaaba has been credited, in Islamic tradition, to Adam, as well as to Abraham and his first son Ishmael (Ismail), progenitor of the Arabs and, through descent from Ismail to Muhammad, of the Muslims. Sardar details how the original association with Abraham, the common originator of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim monotheism, was replaced with a vision of Mecca as a heavenly city in which Adam and Eve dwelt after their expulsion from paradise.
Continue reading Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar Bloomsbury, 448 pp., $30.00 Reviewed by Stephen Schwartz
CIP October 6, 2014
The 16th c. CE Čobanija mosque, a jewel of Sarajevo.
This year – 2014 in the Common Era (C.E.) calendar, 5774-75 in the Hebrew calendar, and the Islamic lunar year 1435-36 – saw a coincidence between the Jewish and Muslim holy days. The 10 Jewish “Days of Awe” were observed from Rosh Hashanah on September 24 to the fast of Yom Kippur on the night of October 3-4. The Muslim observance of the Hajj pilgrimage commenced in Mecca on October 1-2 and the beginning of four days of Eid Al-Adha – the “feast of sacrifice” at the end of the Hajj – was set on the same night as Yom Kippur, October 3-4.
In the “northern” Islamic tier between the Balkans and Central Asia, Eid Al-Adha is known as Kurban Bayram, a translation of “feast of sacrifice.”
Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar reckoning that moves its dates in reverse when compared with the Common Era and Jewish days, Muslim holidays are observed earlier from year to year. Muslims in North America and Western Europe were expected to celebrate Eid Al-Adha/Kurban Bayram beginning on October 4-5. Since it is dependent on local moon sightings, Eid Al-Adha/Kurban Bayram was to be celebrated from Sunday, October 5-6, in North Africa, East Africa, and South Africa, and commencing on Monday, October 6-7, in Pakistan and India.
As noted in The Times of Israel, the coincidence of Yom Kippur and Eid Al-Adha/Kurban Bayram takes place only once every 33 years – most recently in 1948 and 1981, as well as this year.
Continue reading Jews and Muslims Share A Holy Week by Stephen Schwartz
Gulf News [Dubai] October 3, 2014
As a child, Osama Al Bar would walk from his home past Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, to the market of spice and fabric merchants where his father owned a store. At that time, Makkah was so small, pilgrims could sit at the cube-shaped Kaaba and look out at the serene desert mountains where the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) once walked.
Now the market and the homes are gone. Monumental luxury hotel towers crowd around the Grand Mosque where the Kaaba is located, dwarfing it. Steep rocky hills overlooking the mosque have been leveled and are now covered with cranes building more towers in row after row.
“My father and all the people who lived in Makkah wouldn’t recognise it,” said Al Bar, who is now Makkah’s mayor.
Essam Kalthoum, left, managing director of the Bawabat Makkah Company, which oversees several projects around the city, shows a prototype of what the heart of Makkah will look like after construction around the Grand Mosque is complete. Photo: AP
As Muslims from around the world stream into Makkah for the annual Haj this week, they come to a city undergoing the biggest transformation in its history.
Decades ago, this was a low-built city of centuries-old neighbourhoods. Over the years, it saw piecemeal renewal projects. But in the mid-2000s, the kingdom launched its most ambitious overhaul ever with a series of mega-projects that, though incomplete, have already reshaped Makkah.
Continue reading Saudi overhaul reshapes Islam’s holiest city Makkah. Makkah transformed to accommodate growing number of pilgrims by Associated Press
CIP October 1, 2014
Sikand: What, in your view, should be the basis of interfaith dialogue — the basic common consensus that brings people of different faiths together to dialogue in the first place?
Schwartz: Interfaith dialogue should be founded, in my opinion, on a commitment among varying religious believers to social responsibility, and, above all, unity of citizenship in countries and across the globe. Interfaith dialogue should seek ways to reinforce the sense of universal humanity between believers in the different religions. Prophet Muhammad sallallahualeyhisalaam is said to have instructed the Muslim refugees who fled to Christian-ruled Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in the face of their oppression in Makkah to accept the laws and customs of the land to which they migrated, although remaining Muslims. This is supported by a hadith narrated by Ibn Umar and recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari (Volume 4, Book 52, Number 203): ‘The Prophet said, “It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler’s orders) unless these orders involve disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to or obey it”‘.
Continue reading On Interfaith Dialogue Interview with Yoginder Sikand, Author from India by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The Huffington Post September 26, 2014
The flag of the Albanian nation.
On September 21, Pope Francis made a one-day visit to Albania, a short air trip across the Adriatic Sea from Rome but a land neglected typically by global leaders. The excursion was the first by the Pope to a European country since his elevation, according to the Catholic News Service (CNS). He has gone to Brazil in 2013, the Holy Land in May 2014, and South Korea in August 2014.
Four lessons deserve to be gleaned from the Pope’s Albanian visit.
First, while there were widespread warnings that the so-called “Islamic State” occupying territory in Syria and Iraq might attempt to kill the pontiff while he was in Albania, no such risks were anticipated or encountered by the Vatican, CNS reported. Albania is about 56.7 percent Muslim and 10 percent Catholic, as recorded in The CIA World Factbook.
Continue reading Pope Francis in Albania: Four Lessons by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute September 25, 2014
The flag of the Albanian nation.
On September 8, about 20 members of the Kosova Democratic Youth, a wing of the Democratic Party of Kosova (known by its Albanian initials as the PDK), set fire to an “Islamic State” [IS] flag in Prishtina, the country’s capital. In doing so, they participated in a campaign that began in Lebanon and has swept Arab countries, called the #BurnISISFlagChallenge, and inspired apparently by the “ice-bucket challenge” to support medical research. The PDK is the dominant political force in the Balkan republic, and is led by veterans of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1998-99 war.
The flames of the banner led to arguments by some representatives of Islam in Kosova that “the flag is being used unjustly and it is being misused by ISIS, a terrorist organization which allegedly acts on behalf of Muslims; however, this does not give the right to anyone to desecrate Islamic symbols or symbols of any other religion.” Still, the Kosovar Albanians who destroyed the emblem of brutality did not apologize. They said their protest was directed against criminality by terrorists, not religious feelings among ordinary Muslims, according to Kosova state radio-television broadcaster RTK.
Continue reading #BurnISISFlagChallenge in Kosova by Stephen Sylejman Schwartz
Uyghur Human Rights Project and Uyghur American Association September 24, 2014
The flag of East Turkestan.
Note: The Center for Islamic Pluralism endorses this statement by the Uyghur American Association.]
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns in the strongest terms the life sentencing of Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti and considers the verdict and punishment handed down to Mr. Tohti a clear indicator of China’s derision for international standards of justice. UAA asks all concerned governments to strongly protest Mr. Tohti’s treatment and to pressure China for his immediate release.
UAA believes the sentencing is intended to silence peaceful Uyghur dissenters to Chinese state repression and confirms the government’s disregard for meaningful Uyghur participation in solving regional tensions.
“By heavily sentencing Professor Tohti, China has proven that it has no interest in peace in East Turkestan,” said UAA president, Alim Seytoff in a statement. “China has shown to the whole world that it will show no mercy to any Uyghur who dares to challenge its repressive rule.”
Continue reading Uyghur American Association condemns harsh sentencing of Ilham Tohti International community should call for Ilham Tohti’s immediate release by The Uyghur American Association