Inside Islam [University of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Public Radio] February 22, 2012
Damage from an arson attack on the Harabati Baba teqe, a Sufi Muslim religious complex in Tetova, Macedonia, 2010 – Photograph by the Bektashi Community of the Republic of Macedonia.
As an informed global media audience should know, traditions of pluralism that were long established in Islamic statecraft, law, and public institutions today face a mortal threat from adherents to radical, fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni Islam. The latter mainly comprise Saudi-financed Wahhabis, who masquerade as “Salafis,” and South Asian Deobandis, who support the Taliban. In the Balkans, the front line between Sufism and Wahhabism runs through the Albanian- and Muslim-majority – and in the past, Sufi-identified – city of Tetova in eastern Macedonia.
There, a focal point of aggression against Sufi believers is found in the Harabati Baba teqe, a large architectural complex of buildings established by the Bektashi Sufi order in 1538 and used for different spiritual and related purposes. The Harabati compound has been under siege by Wahhabi extremists for nearly a decade, and was set afire in an apparent arson attack in December 2010. As I commented in a paper presented in Tirana, the Albanian capital and center of the Bektashi Sufis, in 2009, the Harabati teqe is one of the three most important outposts of the Bektashis outside Albania, the other two being the Bektashi teqe of Gjakova, Kosovo, and the First Bektashi teqe in Taylor, Michigan, USA. Defense of the Harabati teqe should be the urgent concern of every Bektashi, and all friends of Bektashis and of other Sufis and moderate Muslims in the Balkan region, the Albanian lands, and around the world.
Continue reading Sufis Under Fire in Macedonia by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] February 20, 2012
Ajmer Dargah Sharif, India's most beloved Sufi shrine, dedicated to Khwaja Mo'inuddin Chishti, constructed 16th c. CE — Photograph by Singh92karan, 2010, Via Wikimedia Commons.
British-born Muslim Anjem Choudary and the Syrian Omar Bakri Muhammad are two of the most flamboyant and provocative radical Islamist agitators to have afflicted the West. Choudary, who remains based in Britain, describes himself as the “Manager of the Shariah Court of the UK and former spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun.” The latter group, with an Arabic name meaning “the religious emigrants,” and its front organization, “Shariah4UK,” were proscribed by British authorities in 2010 under legislation for the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism. This dangerous and disreputable crew had faced prohibition under UK law previously in 2004 and 2005. But ever versatile in its efforts to disrupt British civil society, both non-Muslim and Muslim, the network has also been styled “Al-Ghurabaa” (meaning “The Strangers”), The Saved or Saviour Sect, Call to Submission, Islam4UK, Islamic Path, and the London School of Sharia.
Omar Bakri Muhammad, widely known as OBM, was the founder of Al-Muhajiroun, after several years’ involvement with the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT or Liberation Party). HuT is an aberrant movement based originally in pan-Islamic ideology but which adopted radical leftist shadings (and, reportedly, recruited some former Marxists). The program of HuT is notable in its claim that restoration of a global caliphate (khilafat) would create a kind of Islamic welfare state. HuT has employed this idiom particularly in the Central Asian former Soviet republics, where nostalgia for the dictatorial stability, guaranteed employment and other services afforded by Russian communism is strong. Although it is banned in such Muslim countries as Jordan, where it was founded by a Palestinian Islamic jurist, Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani (1909-77), and in non-Muslim lands like Germany, HuT is legal in Indonesia.
Continue reading Loudmouth Lunatics on the Loose in Indian Shariah Campaign by Stephen Schwartz
Stonegate Institute [New York] February 13, 2012
A newly-released study from the British organization Student Rights exposes a problem of which the moderate British Muslim community has been aware for years: the advance of radical ideology among young Muslims, through videos and direct preaching.
A report, “Case Study: London South Bank University Islamic Society,” discloses that the London South Bank University (LSBU)’s Islamic Society (Isoc) has exploited social media to disseminate terrorist propaganda. The LSBU Isoc, an affiliate of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), has long been known for harboring radicals and their sympathisers.
Nine times since November 2011, the LSBI Isoc has used its Facebook account to present video lectures by the late US-born Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was executed in a US military drone operation in Yemen at the end of September 2011. That is, after both Al-Awlaki’s role in several terrorist attacks in the US and his death were widely publicized, the LSBU Islamic Society reposted his lectures. Al-Awlaki was the Al-Qaeda leader involved in inciting the mass attack by Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 people were killed and 29 injured. Al-Awlaki played the same role in the Christmas 2009 attempt by Umar Farouk Abtulmutallub, a Nigerian Muslim extremist, to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, Michigan.
Continue reading Radicalization of Young British Muslims by Irfan Al-Alawi
Folksmagazine [India] February 12, 2012
Parliament of India Building.
On February 5, the Times News Network, based in India, announced a development of significance to all Muslims, but especially in South Asia and the Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi emigrant communities around the globe. Unnoticed in the West, and often ignored by the Urdu media, India is undergoing a revolution in its attitudes toward Islamic law. Perhaps the issues are too convoluted for Westerners. Or the plethora of initials and institutions may be an obstacle to comprehension. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB); the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board – Jadeed; the All-India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB); the All-India Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB), and the All-India Ulema and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) figure in the historical narrative. Keeping them straight is no small task for an outsider.
As reported by TNN writer Mohammed Wajihuddin, a recent meeting of Islamic scholars and activists has produced a “revolutionary” Draft Muslim Personal Law that would prohibit “triple talaq” divorce, in which a husband may reject his wife by a thrice-repeated oral declaration, and would require that all nikahnama (marriage contracts) be registered with state authorities. The minimum marriage age would be 18 for females and 21 for males. Polygamy would be disapproved.
Continue reading An Indian Revolution in Islamic Law by Stephen Schwartz
Folksmagazine [India] February 3, 2012
Hazrat Makhdoom Faqih Ali Mahimi Shrine, 15th c. CE, Mumbai – Photograph 2011 Via Wikimedia Commons.
On January 24, the Islamic hijra month of Rabi Ul-Awwal began. During this month, traditional Muslims around the world will celebrate the birthday of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Milad An-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet) will be an official holiday in India on February 5, the 13th day of Rabi Ul-Awwal. The occasion is similarly honored in 54 Muslim countries, as well as several others with large Muslim minorities, including Sri Lanka, Fiji, Guyana, Kenya, and Tanzania. Milad An-Nabi festivals, juloos processions, candle-lighting, and gatherings for recitation of verses in praise of Muhammad will be held wherever Muslims congregate. The event is known as “mevlud” among the Bosnians, “mevlyd” in Albanian, “mevlid” for the Turks, and “mawlid” in Britain and other English-speaking lands where Muslims have immigrated. The custom is maintained vigorously in Egypt – of which more will be said toward the end of this column.
The birthday of the Prophet will, unfortunately, not be commemorated publicly in Mecca, where he was born, in Medina, or elsewhere in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The KSA is the only Muslim state that does not recognize Milad An-Nabi. For the past decade, since a royal order by then-Crown-Prince and now King Abdullah, Saudi Muslims have been permitted to praise the prophet at Milad An-Nabi behind the walls of private homes. But there will be no open festivals or processions within Saudi Arabia’s borders.
Continue reading Muslims Honor Birthday of Muhammad – Except in His Birthplace by Stephen Schwartz
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
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
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