Al-Firdous Da’wa College, Kanmanam, Malappuram, Kerala, India November 14, 2013
As you are a prominent Islamic scholar, intellectual, Executive Director of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism, and an international journalist, please reply to the following questions.
How do you recall your life before embracing Islam?
I am now 65 and in some way should be retired from active life. I have been a Muslim since the age of 49; I entered the religion in 1997. I now see in my life before Islam many illusions regarding my professional aspirations, my attitude toward myself and others, and my educational goals. For years I considered myself a poet first, and possessed the typical arrogance, I think, of the poet, in believing that the values of literary achievement were supreme, and would be rewarded easily.
I should have perceived in myself a different attitude from that of people around me, and that recognition by my peers, even when it came, would be transitory. I was brought up without religion; indeed, as an atheist. My mother was Christian and my father Jewish, but both of them abandoned religion, and I was raised to believe in no faith. I was a revolutionary communist for 22 years, until the age of 35. Nevertheless, I believed in God after I was eight years old. I did so secretly – my mother was ambivalent about the matter, but my father was very hostile to any religious choice. When at 17 I felt drawn to the Catholic religion – which I did not join – my leftist comrades were dismayed and contemptuous.
Continue reading A Muslim and Sufi, But No “Shopper for God” Interview with Stephen Suleyman Schwartz by Thajudheen Ballakadappuram
Voice of the Cape [South Africa] May 10, 2011
Holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic is allegedly being sold illegally to Muslims by UK retailers. This is according to a recent report by BBC journalist, Guy Lynn, who found the pure holy water contains higher than normal levels of arsenic, nitrates and other chemical substances. The investigative reporter claims Zamzam which originated from Makkah is being sold in London. Zamzam is an integral cleansing tool on the holy pilgrimage and the sale of the water is therefore illegal.
“We have tested the water which pilgrims brought back from the holy city, as well as tested water from the taps in Makkah and bottles on sale there. All had very similar results to the water that was tested in the UK. Arsenic found in the water tested to three times the levels which are allowed by UK standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines,” he told VOC’s Drivetime. The water could be polluted naturally from soil and rocks and drinking it in moderation is fine.
But, Lynn said, through undercover filming, the retailers said there were people purchasing and consuming large quantities daily. Prior to the piece being aired on BBC, the investigative team approached Saudi authorities for a response about the apparent contamination at the source. “We did not receive a response before the piece aired, but two days later, Saudi authorities denied and refuted the fact that the water is contaminated, and as far as they were concerned it is safe to drink,” Guy said.
Continue reading Zam Zam in Danger by Aqeelah Bawa
Stephen Schwartz at the grave of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović
Pajamas Media, February 14, 2011
Stephen Schwartz was raised a communist in the San Francisco Bay Area and once worked for the Cubans. Then he became a Republican and converted to Islam in the Balkans. When he’s not busy with his duties as the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he writes books and articles for magazines like The Weekly Standard.
His analysis of the Middle East and the Muslim world generally is more fresh and interesting than that of most. He is the first Westerner to use the word “Islamofascism” to describe the “use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology,” and he did so not as an “Islamophobe” but as a Muslim believer. Those who yearn to hear from moderate Muslims, and those who have somehow convinced themselves that the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood are the moderates, really need to hear what he has to say.
MJT: So, what are your thoughts on Egypt?
Stephen Schwartz: Well, during the first two weeks most of the usual chatterers had no chattering to do. Everybody was stunned. Nobody had an answer. A lot of what should have been said was considered politically incorrect. Nobody for the first two weeks wanted to say there weren’t just two alternatives in Egypt, Mubarak or the Brotherhood. There were three alternatives—Mubarak, the Brotherhood, and the army which really rules Egypt.
Continue reading From San Francisco to Sarajevo by Michael J. Totten An Interview With Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog, October 21, 2010
As reported in the New York Times earlier this week, Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, best-known for his rejected offer of a $10 million check [...]
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Centre for Islamic Pluralism international director Dr Irfan Al-Alawi, who is also executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, will be interviewed live on South African Muslim [...]
Folksmagazine, July 5, 2010
U Mahesh Prabhu (UMP): Center for Islamic Pluralism, of which you are a director, presents itself as “think tank that challenges the dominance of American Muslim life by militant Islamist groups”. What according to is “militant Islam” and “moderate Islam”?
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz (SSS): Militant or, as we prefer to define it, radical Islam is a fundamentalist Islam that pursues jihad within the ummah of Muslims to combat those with whom the radicals disagree, such as Shias, Sufis, and other heterodox groups, while also confronting and attacking non-Muslims. Radical Islam practices takfir or expulsion against Muslims of which it disapproves. Moderate Islam is an Islam satisfied to function as a normal religion, defending itself when directly attacked as a religion, but otherwise cultivating mutual respect with other faiths, and depending for its approval by Almighty Allah on its devotion to the foundations of the religion and positive intentions, rather than extravagant external piety or aggression toward Muslims with which it diverges and non-Muslims. Moderate Islam does not practice takfir.
UMP: How do you explain, in simple words, Wahhabi Islam? How dangerous is it?
SSS: Wahhabi Islam is a deviant sect emerging from the Arabian hinterland 250 years ago, which is fundamentalist, exclusionary, radical, and hostile to traditional Islamic customs. It is also extremely aggressive against other faiths. Drawing on Gulf petrodollars, Wahhabism seeks to bring all Sunni Muslims in the world under its control and to impose its views and practices upon them. Wahhabism falsely presents itself as “Salafism,” a term correctly applied to 19th century Muslim reformers who were neither violent nor anti-Western, although, regrettably, they opposed Sufism and other traditional aspects of the religion. It represents a devastating threat to Sunni Islam and to the world.
Continue reading “I fervently hope that moderate Islam will defeat radical Islam”: Suleyman Schwartz. Interview by U Mahesh Prabhu