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
All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board September 20, 2014
The All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) has welcomed cautiously the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said in an interview on Friday, September 19, that he was confident the Al Qaida conspiracy to establish a South Asia wing, i.e. through Qaedat Al-Jihad, will fail in India, as Indian Muslims would never dance to the tune of and never accept the philosophy of the terror group.
Continue reading Indian Sufis Welcome Statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Al-Zawahiri by All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board
The Weekly Standard Blog September 16, 2014
Evin Prison, Tehran, 2008 – Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the worst global example of capricious interference by Muslim theocrats in the personal and spiritual lives of its citizens. On September 9, as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), seven young Iranians went on trial. Their supposed crime? Producing a dance video of the Pharrell Williams’s pop hit “Happy” and uploading it to YouTube.
You might think Iran’s rulers would be pleased at expressions of felicity by their citizens. In Tehran, however, cheerful enthusiasm outside a narrow religious context is illegal. The seven defendants in the case—Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and an individual known as “Sepideh”—face allegations of “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and having “illicit relations,” according to ICHRI. The dancing depicted in the Iranian video is notably modest. The Iranian authorities, nevertheless, claimed the female dancers were “naked” because they lacked the head covering or chador and “Islamic dress.”
Continue reading More Arbitrary Repression in Iran by Stephen Schwartz
Gatestone Institute September 9, 2014
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected Turkey’s first directly elected President on August 10, representing the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials as AKP). He had served the Islamist AKP as Turkey’s Prime Minister continuously since 2003. He was sworn in as President on August 28.
As pointed out by Daniel Dombey reporting from Istanbul in London’s Financial Times and published the day the Erdoğan presidency began, “Mr. Erdoğan remained prime minister right up until taking the office of president: both offices provide their holder with immunity from prosecution. Turkey’s official register also held off publishing the results of his election as president — which according to some of his opponents would have necessitated his resignation as prime minister — until the day of his inauguration.”
Dombey attributed Erdoğan’s tight hold on power during the transition to the new President’s fear of the country’s judiciary. Erdoğan and his circle have diverged sharply from the Muslim preaching movement of Fethullah Gülen, their former close ally. Members of the AKP accuse Gülen’s followers of infiltrating the police and courts, and using them to embarrass Erdoğan with allegations of financial misconduct.
Continue reading Turkish President Erdoğan’s Expansive Ambitions by Veli Sirin