Folksmagazine [India] January 4, 2012
It is customary for columnists to conclude the common year with reflections on that which has just finished and predictions for that which is to come.
I make no pretensions to prophecy, aside from occasional analysis based on news reports. I am, however, a Muslim believer, and will therefore reverse the usual order of such discourses, beginning with what I and those with whom I cooperate in the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) hope will come about, and dedicating the rest of this contribution to a look back at 2011.
First, let those of us who are Muslims pray and work for an end to violence, whether between Muslims, or inflicted by Muslims on non-Muslims and by non-Muslims on Muslims.
Let us pray and work for a positive victory over the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Let us pray and work against the so-called “Boko Haram” cult that, claiming to act in the interest of Sunni Islam, has carried out brutal attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Let us pray and work for social reform to prevail over Wahhabi reaction in Saudi Arabia.
Let us pray and work for global leaders to avoid the lure of a “new” Islamist ideology reigning over Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries – of which, more below.
Continue reading Prayers for 2012 and Reflections on 2011
by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] December 20, 2011
On December 5, The Hindu, a major national daily, reported an important step forward in Indian Muslim relations with state governments. According to the newspaper, authorities in Rajasthan, on India’s western frontier with Pakistan, have appointed representatives of the Barelvi sect, a traditionalist Sunni interpretation imbued with spiritual Sufism, to the leadership of several Muslim institutions. In doing so, The Hindu reports, Rajasthan effectively barred radical Islamist agitators from directing local communal bodies, and has followed the lead of the central government, which is controlled by the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
A prominent Barelvi, Maulana Fazl-e-Haq, who is affiliated with the Madrasa Ishaqiya of Jodhpur, will head the state’s Madrasa Board, with responsibility for administration of Islamic religious education. He is a disciple of the aged Sufi Hazrat Allama Pirzada Maulana Chaman Qadri. Hazrat Chaman Qadri, of Gyarwee Sharif Jalsa Bundi, is a leading figure in the Qadiri Sufi order (tariqat), one of the largest and oldest in the Muslim world. Chaman Qadri is also the chief qazi (head Islamic judge) in Rajasthan and a member of the Hajj Committee and other Muslim institutions.
The Rajasthan Urdu Akademi, charged with development of Urdu culture among the state’s Muslims, will be supervised by Habib-ur-Rehman Niyazi, from the Barelvi family of Meerji Ka Bagh. The Rajasthan Public Service Commission will now include Indian Police Service officer Habib Khan, a Barelvi. The new chairman of the State Minorities Commission, M. Mahir Azad, is known as a Sufi sympathizer. Previously, Rajasthan had appointed Liaqat Ali, a devotee of a Sufi shrine in the district of Jhunjhunu, to the local Waqf Board, with oversight over Islamic pious foundations.
Continue reading India: Rajasthan Authorities Favor Barelvis, Rejecting Wahhabi Infiltrators by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog December 7, 2011
Šebilj (fountain), 18th c. CE, Sarajevo – Photograph 2008 by Josep Renalias, Via Wikimedia Commons.
Two of the most respected Muslim academics in Bosnia-Herzegovina have given lengthy interviews in which they condemned Wahhabism, or “Salafism,” as the Arab-financed Islamist ideology is also known. Their sharp criticism was published in the aftermath of the October 28 shooting attack at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, by a Serbian Muslim, Mevlid Jašarević, wearing the short pants and untrimmed beard characteristic of Wahhabis.
Rešid Hafizović, a distinguished professor of Islamic theology at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, warned last year that the “virus” of Wahhabi radicalism had “destroyed every chance” for the development of European Islam. Hafizović described Wahhabism as “a new plague,” disseminated by “Muslim puritans and perpetual world fixers.”
Following the attack on the embassy, in which a Bosnian policeman and the assailant himself were shot, Hafizović was interviewed in the November 5-6 weekend edition of the secularist Bosnian daily Oslobođenje (Liberation). Under the title “Wahhabis are Coming for a Property Deed on Bosnia-Herzegovina,” he warned, “I am not sure that the assault at the American embassy in Sarajevo marks a culmination in the tale of Wahhabism, considering the completely befuddled and, mostly only verbal reaction of the state institutions and the Islamic Community leadership to the Wahhabi rampage in this country. . . . The reaction of the top of the Islamic Community has always been understood by the Wahhabi gang as a tacit green light for their actions.”
Continue reading Bosnian Muslim Academics Condemn Wahhabism After Attack on U.S. Embassy by Stephen Schwartz
Lapido Media [London] December 1, 2011
Hazrat Makhdoom Faqih Ali Mahimi Shrine, Mumbai, 2011 – Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
Zakir Naik, the Indian Muslim preacher, is one of the Islamic world’s best-known ‘televangelists’. His Peace TV station, broadcasting in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Mumbai, has become influential across the Indian subcontinent and in the South Asian Muslim communities abroad. His latest ten-day ‘International Islamic Conference’, in Hindi and Urdu, has just finished showing in Mumbai over ten evenings this November.
This year Naik’s publicity promised the participation of Shaikh Saud Ash-Shuraim, a Wahhabi imam from the Grand Mosque (Haram) in Mecca. It was the second year that Ash-Shuraim lead the Friday prayer at Naik’s Mumbai ‘peace conference’. Yet his brand of peace has got him into plenty of hot water.
He is banned from Britain and Canada for inciting young Muslims to ‘practice terror’.
He has become notorious for his Wahhabism and his past sympathy for Deobandism, the form of Islam that spawned the Afghan Taleban. In addition, he has indulged in incitement against other practices and interpretations in Islam, most notably Sufi devotions and Shiism, and against non-Muslim believers. He flamboyantly advertises conversions from Hinduism, Christianity, and other religions to Islam ‘inspired’ by his appeal.
Continue reading Zakir Naik: A danger to India and its Muslims by Irfan Al-Alawi
The Huffington Post November 9, 2011
The Prophet's Shrine, Medina.
Hajj is a duty required of all Muslim believers who can afford it: one of the five pillars of Islam along with the profession of faith, prayer, payment of charity and fasting at Ramadan. Hajj is a ritual journey to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, during five days in the Hajj month (Zu’l-Hijja) that concludes the Islamic lunar (hijri) year. Each of its elements recalls an event in the lives of Ibrahim (Abraham), his female servant Hagar, their son Ismail (Ishmael) and Muhammad.
In 2011, according to the Western calendar, Hajj began on Nov. 5. Hajj continues with the four-day Eid al-Adha observances in Mecca and in Muslim communities around the world. Eid al-Adha, known as Kurban Bairam among Turkic and Balkan Muslims, and as Eid-e-Ghorban in Persian, will last from Nov. 6 through Nov. 9. Eid al-Adha includes a special morning prayer service.
The annual Hajj-month journey to Mecca is not the only way a Muslim may undertake a pilgrimage to Islam’s most sacred site, which is the location toward which Muslims pray. Many of the faithful travel to Mecca for Umrah, a “lesser Hajj” involving fewer people and limited ritual practices. Umrah may be completed at any time during the year.
With Muslims counting between 1 billion and 1.5 billion in today’s world, one may ask why the full Hajj is only undertaken by some 2 million people annually. This is perplexing given the ease and low cost of air travel and the resources available to the Saudi authorities. But since the seizure of the holy city by the House of Sa’ud and the Wahhabi clerics in 1924, Hajj, which should be a glorious occasion in the life of every Muslim, has seen its capacity for spiritual fulfillment diminished. Before the Wahhabi takeover, Hajj travellers from Egypt came to Mecca accompanied by music, which the Wahhabis banned. In addition, distinctive customs observed by Shiite pilgrims were prohibited under the Saudis.
Continue reading Hajj: What It Has Become and What It Should Be Again by Stephen Schwartz
The Crusader [Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania, USA] November 4, 2011
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, 2011.
Journalist Stephen Schwartz presented his lecture titled “Islamophobia: America’s New Fear Industry” on Nov. 1 in Isaacs Auditorium in Seibert Hall. The presentation addressed common misconceptions regarding the Islamic religion that have resulted in what Schwartz termed “an irrational fear of Islam.”
Born in Ohio to [a Christian mother and Jewish father], Schwartz was raised as an atheist despite having a fascination with religion. “My father’s family was killed during the Holocaust, and consequently he was afraid of religion,” Schwartz said. “I, however, [became] a secret believer in God,” he added.
For his ninth birthday, Schwartz asked his parents for a Bible. The request was met with hesitance on the part of his parents, but they conceded and purchased a Bible that was to be kept in the living room exclusively. Forty years later, Schwartz had found the religion he was looking for.
In 1997, Schwartz was stationed in Bosnia [by the Council of Europe] while with the San Francisco Chronicle, where he made a name for himself as a prominent reporter. Schwartz said he was impressed by the peaceful nature of the Muslims who showed no desire for retaliation against oppressive [ex-Yugoslav] government[s]. “All they wanted was peace and independence,” Schwartz said. It was during that time that Schwartz, [who had] bought a Quran, learned more about the Islamic religion. According to Schwartz, he immediately found a connection with the religion. “I had finally found the religion I was looking for,” he said.
Schwartz discusses Islam as a religion misunderstood and misrepresented by many people around the world that lack an understanding of Islamic values. This is due in large part, Schwartz explained, to constructed fear built on the basis of actions by a minute number of Muslims coupled with a shortage of knowledge regarding the religion.
Continue reading Speaker analyzes ‘Islamophobia’ by Kevin Collins
The Weekly Standard Blog November 3, 2011
The Maghribija Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, 2009 — Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
On Friday, October 28, a 23-year-old Slav Muslim from Serbia named Mevlid Jašarević fired an automatic weapon for 30 minutes at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Hercegovina. According to the Washington Post, Jašarević also carried hand grenades and had been arrested for theft in Austria in 2005 and for waving around “a large knife” during a tour of south Serbia by Western diplomats last year.
No American personnel were injured in the Sarajevo incident, but a Bosnian policeman guarding the embassy was wounded. The embassy is a fortress-like structure erected well away from the center of the city after the Dayton Accords ended the Bosnian war in 1995. It is located at Number 1, Robert C. Frasure Street, named for a U.S. diplomat who was killed, with two other Americans, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Kruzel and Air Force Colonel Sam Nelson Drew, in a driving accident on a mountain road above Sarajevo during the negotiations that led to the Dayton agreement.
Jašarević’s assault was stopped when he was shot by one of a group of Bosnian police who arrived at the embassy. The terrorist was treated at a local hospital and handed back to Bosnian judicial authorities on October 31. On November 2, as also reported by the Washington Post, two Bosnians, Dino Pečenković, 24, and Munib Ahmetpašić, 21, were arrested for having driven Jašarević to Sarajevo from the local headquarters of the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, in the small northern Bosnian village of Gornja Maoca.
Continue reading Islamist Terrorism in Bosnia as Turkish Interference Continues in the Balkans by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] October 30, 2011
The Tunisian Republic, where the “Arab Spring” began at the end of last year, has now passed the first test of democracy in the region undergoing upheaval since then. On Sunday, October 23, the country held free elections for its new constituent assembly.
But there was an ambiguous aspect to the success of the balloting process. A plurality of 41 percent was received by Ennahda (Renaissance), the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), delivering 90 of 217 assembly seats to the Islamist party. Ennahda has proposed its secretary general, Hamadi Jebali, as the country’s new prime minister, and has commenced negotiations for a coalition with the secularist Congress for the Republic (CPR) and the leftist Ettakatol party, according to BBC News.
Ennahda and its top leader, Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, have presented a version of MB ideology mentored by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials as the AKP). Among other links with the AKP environment, several books by Ghannouchi have been published in Turkish. In addition, Ghannouchi’s views have, for some years, been promoted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a U.S.-based think tank known for its outreach to radical Islamist regimes and groups in Iran, Sudan, and in the West.
Continue reading Tunisia Tests Arab Democratic Gains by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] October 24, 2011
Tomb of Allama Iqbal, Lahore, 2005 — Photograph By Ali Imran Via Wikimedia Commons.
The week ending 23 October has been replete with complex events. They include the violent end of Mu’ammar Al-Qadhdhafi, the death in hospital of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Abd Al-Aziz, the first democratic vote of the Arab reform wave in Tunisia, and the abrupt declaration by president Hamid Karzai that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a conflict with the U.S. The last came after Karzai had spent several days criticizing Islamabad for its soft attitude toward the Taliban and then signed a security agreement with India. Pakistan itself, meanwhile, has seen controversy over a development that must be unsettling to all those in the world who seek a way for Islam to flourish in pluralistic conditions.
In January 2011, Salman Taseer, the secularist governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was assassinated by a member of his personal guard, Mumtaz Qadri. Moderate Muslims, and many non-Muslims with a positive view of traditional and pluralist Islam, were dismayed to learn that the killer, who proudly confessed to the crime, was an adherent of the Barelvi sect of Islam, which is said typically to be followed by a majority of Pakistani and Indian Muslims.
Continue reading The Moral Crisis of Pakistani Barelvism by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog October 20, 2011
Mahapanchayat, Moradabad, 2011 — Photograph by AIUMB.
On October 16, 100,000 Indian Muslims gathered for a “mahapanchayat“—a mass assembly of local council leaders—in Moradabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s leading state in population, with about 200 million people. At a press conference announcing the convocation, Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichowchhwi, general secretary of the All-India Ulema and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB)—a body of moderate clerics and spiritual Sufi leaders—spoke out boldly against fundamentalist Wahhabism. Kichowchhwi denounced the radical doctrine inspired by Saudi Arabia as “a virus for society” and assailed Wahhabis he said had gained control of India’s Muslim communal institutions.
Moradabad — Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
“The majority of Indian Muslims do not accept them as their religious leaders,” said Kichowchhwi, the head of a prominent Sufi shrine, Kachhochha Sharif, about 300 miles southeast of Moradabad in Faizabad, also in Uttar Pradesh. He elaborated, “the flag-bearers of Wahhabism . . . do not lead the 80 percent Sunni and Sufi Muslim population of India.” (India’s Muslims—some 150 million, or 14 percent of its citizens—are the third largest Islamic community in the world, after those of Indonesia, 215 million, and Pakistan, 160 million). Kichowchhwi accused functionaries from the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, which supervises the application of Islamic family law among Muslims, of joining the clerics and teachers of the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband sect, which inspires the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in “promoting the imported ideology of Wahhabism from the Arab world.” His blunt language shocked India’s Muslim media.
Continue reading Indian Muslims Increasing Resistance to Wahhabi Incursion
by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz