Folksmagazine [India] November 7, 2011
Ferhadija Mosque, Sarajevo, 2006 — Photograph by Christian Bickel, Via Wikimedia Commons.
Eid Al-Adha has arrived. Known in India as Eid ul-Zuha, to Balkan and Turkish Muslims as Kurban Bairam and to Persian speakers as Eid-e-Ghorban, the four-day festival of sacrifice recalls the mercy of God in preventing Ibrahim (Abraham), the father of Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism, from sacrificing his son. Since becoming a Muslim, I have had a special attachment to Kurban Bairam, as it is called in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the place where I accepted the message of Qur’an and the faith of Muhammad.
It is seldom mentioned by commentators on the story of Ibrahim and the will to kill his son in God’s name that the Canaanite, Phoenician, and Carthaginian religion that competed with the revelation to Ibrahim was based in the offering up of children, by burning in fiery pits. The Islamic commemoration of Ibrahim’s release from commission of this terrible deed centers on Mecca, the holiest city for Muslim believers, but will be celebrated by the faithful in the slaughter of meat for the needy everywhere Muslims are found. The mercy of God in sending angels to stay the hand of Ibrahim, substituting a sheep for Ibrahim’s offspring, is reproduced in the compassion of the Muslims who distribute the fresh meat to the poor. Instead of killing children, Islam calls on its traditional adherents to feed them. Similarly, one of the first actions of the Prophet Muhammad was to prohibit female infanticide – the murder of “unwanted” daughters, viewed as less valuable than sons – in Arabia.
Continue reading An Eid Al-Adha Manifesto For A Sufi Revolution
by Stephen Schwartz
Illyria [New York] September 15, 2011
[CIP Note: The original Albanian-language text of this article, with photographs, may be accessed by placing your cursor on the title Illyria at the head of the entry.]
On Saturday, September 10th, a group of Albanians participated in one of the most meaningful events held in New York City during the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the most notorious terrorist attacks ever carried out against America.
An interfaith service brought together clerics, believers and citizens from different religious and ethnic communities of the City. The host was the Park East Synagogue and its spiritual leader, Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
After the Shabbat service, Rabbi Schneier was joined before the regular members of his congregation and guests, by Reverend Father Mark Arey of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City and Imam Tahir Kukaj, of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center of Staten Island (Imam Kukaj also teaches at the Miraj Islamic School).
An inspiring speech was delivered to the congregation and guests by Ann Schaffer, Director of the Belfer Center for American Pluralism at the American Jewish Committee. AJC is one of the most respected Jewish community organizations in America and was one of the co-organizers of this Interfaith Prayer Service, with the motto: “Healing and Hope – Tenth Anniversary Commemoration of 9/11.”
Continue reading An Interfaith Memorial for September 11, 2001
Albanian and Jews pray together at Park East Synagogue, New York by Ruben Avxhiu
The Weekly Standard Blog, June 14, 2011
Baqa al-Gharbiyya, Israel—A high-level academic conference on Sufism, the spiritual tradition in Islam, was held here on May 24-25, and it offered lessons apart from any involving religion. For anyone unacquainted with actual life in Israel – and for academics lured by demagogic calls for a boycott of the Jewish state – the conference might have provided a revelation of often-unspoken truths.
At the Al-Qasemi Conference, Israel, 2011: From left, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Khalid Mahmud, Shaykh Abd Al-Rauf Al-Qasemi, Shmuel Moreh, Pehlul Duzenli, Arin Salamah-Qudsi, and others
The “First International Conference—In The Footsteps of Sufism: History, Trends and Praxis” was hosted by the Al-Qasemi Academy, an institution that, in the words of an enthusiastic student, “hopes to be the first Muslim university in Israel.” Baqa al-Gharbiyya, where it is located, is a town divided by the “green line” between Israel and the West Bank, and the school is on the Israeli side of the frontier. With about 2,000 students, mainly women, it receives 35 percent of its budget from the Israeli Ministry of Education and the rest from private donors. Al-Qasemi (with the accent on the first syllable in “Qasemi”) is planning a second campus, to award bachelor’s degrees in technology, but has yet to develop a budget for it.
Continue reading The Academic Boycott vs. the Truth of Islamic Education in Israel by Stephen Schwartz
The Jewish Chronicle 3/6/2011
The Jewish Chronicle [London], June 3, 2011
Please see the attached .pdf: Unfortunately, the London Jewish Chronicle does not publish letters to the editor on line. [...]
The Huffington Post, May 28, 2011
By coincidence, I was thinking about Serbia when I received word of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the notorious leader of the Serbian extremist forces that devastated Bosnia-Hercegovina in the Yugoslav war of 1992-95. On May 26, I was sitting in a hotel room in Nazareth, having just visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and engaged in a spiritual Sufi exercise; I walked along the walls of the Basilica reciting Islamic blessings inaudibly. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is considered by Muslims to have been the greatest of all women, an item of belief largely unknown to Westerners. Qur’an states “O Mary! Allah has chosen and purified you, selecting you above all other women” (Q 3:42). Islamic scripture dedicates an entire surah, or chapter, to her, number 19. From the Sufi perspective, honoring Mary in Nazareth epitomizes traditional Islam.
The television was on in my room but I paid little attention to it until Sky News, the mediocre Murdoch-owned channel, announced the Serbian detention of Mladic. The boss of the ultranationalist militia, really a rabble in arms, had been hidden in Serbia by his official sympathizers for 16 years, since the end of the Bosnian war.
Continue reading Of Butchers and Boycotts: Reflections on the Arrest of Ratko Mladic by Stephen Schwartz
NewsGram [India], May 21, 2011
The current series of successive mass protests and “regime changes” in the Muslim lands has an important precedent. First tsarist Russia and Persia, in 1905-6, then Turkey in 1908, and ultimately non-Muslim but despotic China, in 1911, experienced revolutionary transformations, although all of them, in one or another way, failed in their first cycle. Still, these were profound phenomena unlike the coups and intrigues that brought nationalist cliques to power in some Arab states during the 1960s.
Sociology reasserts its importance here because of the special role of intellectuals in each of these Eastern movements of a century past. The term “intellectual” is defined differently now than it was then, when it referred primarily to working journalists and other participants in the open marketplace of ideas, rather than to academics and established authors. Faith assumes a role because all four countries were dominated culturally by traditionalist religious hierarchies rooted in or contaminated by despotism: Russia by Orthodox Christianity, Persia and Turkey by apparently-conservative forms of Islam, and China by Confucianism. The most significant aspect of the early 20th century “chain of Eastern revolutions” – as today – involved the question of whether the faith of Muhammad and democracy are compatible.
Continue reading Will History Repeat Itself in the Muslim Spring? by Stephen Schwartz
May 16, 2011, New York
The American Jewish Committee is urging a federal appeals court to block implementing a new Oklahoma provision targeting Shariah law.
“Singling out the religious law of one faith is simply unconstitutional and smacks of fear-mongering,” said AJC Associate General Counsel Marc D. Stern.
In a brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in the case of Awad v. Ziriax, AJC argues that an Oklahoma constitutional provision adopted by referendum last November banning Oklahoma courts from relying on Shariah law is “flagrantly unconstitutional” for violating the “core nondiscrimination command of the Establishment Clause.”
The brief points out that there is no mistaking the discriminatory purposes of the provision’s sponsors. They and their supporters repeatedly said that the proposal was intended to ward off the threat of which there was no evidence of an Islamic law takeover of Oklahoma’s courts. The proposal, AJC notes, did not ban reliance on other forms of religious law, including Jewish and canon law.
Continue reading CIP Joins American Jewish Committee Brief Vs. Oklahoma Anti-Shariah Provision
The Weekly Standard Blog, May 3, 2011
Since its onset in mid-January, the Arab Spring has caused serious problems for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even more than other Middle Eastern states threatened by mass dissent, Iran’s ruling regime has fostered bizarre conspiracy theories blaming its intellectual enemies, both foreign and domestic, for threatening its dominion with a “velvet revolution.” Peaceful protests brought down the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, and his campaign of brutal repression now threatens Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a key Iranian ally.
The collapse of Assad’s bloody rule would be felt acutely by the Iranians, who support Syria against the Sunni Arab powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, and use it as a conduit to ship arms to Hezbollah across the border in Lebanon. Indeed, Iran’s anxiety over the Syrian uprising these last six weeks has sharpened divisions in the ruling strata, including factions siding with the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and his figurehead as president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Continue reading Syrian Crisis Grows, and Iran’s Inner Circle Gets Edgier by Stephen Schwartz
Toronto Sun, February 26, 2011
As people’s insurrections spread in the Arab world, it might be useful for those watching the mayhem gather pace to take time out from television and reach for some historical perspective.
There is no substitute for such perspective to put in context the Arab drama unfolding before our eyes. And like a play of several acts, it will have many scene changes before the curtain eventually comes down.
From North Africa to the Persian Gulf, Arab regimes are trembling. Some will fall and others will change colours to barely survive.
The Libyan thug Moammar Gadhafi did not imagine his thugocracy could so quickly unravel. He might meet the fate of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, executed by his rebellious soldiers, or that of Saddam Hussein, with a noose around his neck.
But as the drama unfolds, three things will increasingly stand out.
First, former president George W. Bush, despite those who ridiculed him, was right in insisting, “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to all humanity.”
Arabs could not be denied freedom, nor condemned to the rule of despots. Bush was right in promoting the freedom agenda — though fair-minded individuals can have disagreements on the details and how it is implemented — and right in bringing regime change in Iraq.
Continue reading Freedom is ‘God’s gift to humanity’ by Salim Mansur
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