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Sunday, September 30, 2012

“JOURNEYS INTO THE HEART AND THE HEARTLAND OF ISLAM: VICTIMS SPEAK OUT”


JOURNEYS INTO THE HEART AND THE HEARTLAND OF ISLAM:
VICTIMS SPEAK OUT
” 1
A Review Article by Jacob Thomas

Even though Islam has been explored by various authors in recent years, one wonders if the doctrines and worldview of this religion have been fully grasped by those reading such books. We certainly hope enlightenment is growing. Among electorates in various nations this appears to be the case. Yet, actions by many leaders of Western nations and liberal intellectuals the world over often indicate willful blindness to Islam’s teachings and desire for world conquest.
Therefore another book on Islam is in order. Marvin W. Heyboer has written a timely book reflecting upon his travels in several Muslim countries in order to find out for himself the condition of non-Muslim people living under Islamic rule. It is a sad story. He was moved to embark on his project soon after 9/11/2001; seeking to understand what impelled young Muslim men to attack important centers of America, killing thousands in the most fiendish manner.
Before Heyboer gets to the personal details of his journey, he sets forth the background of Islam. He has made an effort to study the authoritative texts of Islam: the Qur’an, the Hadith, and Sirat (Life) of Muhammad. Islamic aggressiveness in doctrine and life is outlined in the first three chapters of the book. While these facts are generally well known, they bear reiterating, because they still hold sway in the Islamic mind.
Muhammad began his mission in Mecca (610 A.D.) as a preacher of monotheism, and after moving to Medina (622) he became a successful military commander launching several raids on the Meccan caravans on their way to Syria. He became the absolute ruler of the territory he commanded, and went on to eliminate Jews and Christians from Arabia, finally decreeing that the Islamic Umma, the community of true believers, must involve itself in Jihad. Non-Muslims coming under Islamic rule, and who desired to remain in their own religions, had to pay the Jizya tax, and were designated as Dhimmis. Heyboer explains this dual aspect of Islamic Imperialism: Jihad and Dhimmitude.

In the final seven chapters devoted to Heyboer’s “Journeys into the Heartland of Islam”he relates the many obstacles he had to overcome in order to interview the victims of Islamic persecution.
In the spring of 2004, the author arrived in Nigeria and began his visit to the northern part of the country, where the population is predominantly Muslim. The authorities had been persecuting Christians for decades. I can attest to this because in May, 1966, I happened to be in Kano, one of the major cities in Northern Nigeria. I witnessed firsthand the beginning of the riots that were to result in the killings of many Christians who lived in the area. I shall never forget my ride to Kano’s International Airport, as I attempted to escape the dangerous situation. Eventually I did manage to escape to Lagos. The native Christians, however, could not escape.
Heyboer almost 40 years later ventured into Nigeria and met a pastor in the town of Gillian. How little things had changed. Marvin listened to a shocking account of a tragedy that took place in 2002:

Several church members were killed as they rushed through here to escape the armed Muslims. This is where we lost ten of our smallest children. They ran here for safety. They locked the door for protection. All of them died from burns and suffocation.” P. 95

Marvin later visited the Sudan and his account of his travels there reads like a thriller. It is almost impossible to obtain a visa to the country; but having finally succeeded and gotten into the country, Heyboer’s difficulties mounted.

Hotel registration was no formality. Front desk personnel were pushed aside, and I faced a second port of ‘official’ immigration. My passport with visa was withheld. I was not to venture beyond the Khartoum city limits during my stay in Sudan!” P. 156

Before too long, Marvin discovered that a Sudanese woman with a gold colored jacket showed up wherever he went. He later learned that she was from the Sudanese Intelligence and was assigned to keep a watch on his movements. However, with the help of a Christian Sudanese, he managed to escape her surveillance. In a visit to a Christian home, he heard the heart-rending story of John, a young Christian, who one day, was caught by Sudanese soldiers and sold into slavery. Eventually, John managed to escape, but still suffers physically and mentally, from his time of captivity.
Finally, Marvin ended his journey in Egypt. Whether he was in Cairo, Alexandria, or in Upper Egypt,2 he learned about the almost unbearable conditions that the Copts (Egyptian Christians who are the original inhabitants of the land) have undergone for decades.
A young Christian, Brahim, shared his frustrations with Heyboer, and described the plight of Coptic Christians in the land of his forefathers.

In America, Muslims have the freedom to build mosques. In Upper Egypt, Christians cannot even use a speaker system to address an audience in their local church building.” P. 205

The list of indignities suffered by Copts is long, and somehow the West seems to be blissfully ignorant of it!

Summarizing his experiences in the African “Heartland of Islam,” Marvin Heyboer writes:
At journey’s end, I have seen the wounded, broken victims easily camouflaged by Islam behind the Crescent curtain. Many suffer in tears of silent dignity. Why do some religious leaders praise a religion of such oppression? Why do they argue that only some of the more radical Muslims perpetrate such violence? That is exactly not the point. It is not about what every Muslim does or does not do. It is about what Islam (sharia) instructs them to do. In my visits and studies, I did not once, not once uncover leaders of Islam (political or religious) who seriously condemned terror jihad and compensated those looted or offered healing to those wounded. The point is Islam teaches terror behavior.” P. 283

“JOURNEYS INTO THE HEART AND HEARTLAND OF ISLAM” is a timely book that serves as a corrective to the superficial and deceptive accounts of Islam that depict it as a “religion of peace,” which has been highjacked by extremists. I am thankful to the author for undertaking his journey “into the heartland of Islam,” and providing us with this much-needed account of the sufferings of Christians under Islam. It should further persuade Western readers particularly of Islam’s intolerance toward other religious beliefs. It should prevent them from being fooled by the political correctness that appears to have paralyzed so many others in political and journalistic circles in the West hindering them from grasping the inherent danger of Islam and its relation to world-wide terrorism.
The book suffers from the lack of a Table of Contents and Index and some misspellings. But this should not distract from its overall importance.


Footnotes
1 Marvin W. Heyboer, Journeys into the Heart and Heartland of Islam: Victims Speak Out. Published by Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., 701 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
2 Upper Egypt stands for the south of the country, while Lower Egypt designates the area from Cairo all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. A few miles north of Cairo, the Nile River divides into two branches, thus forming the Delta region.

ISLAM-“The Muslim in the West”


“The Muslim in the West”

مسلم في الغرب
By Jacob Thomas in Collaboration with June Engdahl

Throughout most of their history, Muslims have lived within their homelands, known as“Dar’ul Islam,” (House of Islam). Between the 11th and 15th centuries, with the reconquest of southern Italy and the Iberian Peninsula, Muslims found themselves in a totally new environment. As Bernard Lewis put it,
In all these countries the reconquest was followed – sometimes after an interval of tolerance – by a determined effort on the part of Christian rulers to convert or else evict their Muslim subjects. In these efforts they were, in the long run, successful. In general, Christian unwillingness to tolerate Muslims was matched by Muslim unwillingness to remain under Christian rule. Most Muslim jurists held that it was impossible for a Muslim to live under a non-Muslim government. If an infidel in the lands of the infidels was converted to Islam it was his duty to leave his home and country and travel to a land where Muslims ruled and Muslim law prevailed. The scriptural authority for this doctrine was the migration (hijra) of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions from Mecca to Medina – the event which marked the birth of the Muslim state and the beginning of the Muslim era. Where the Prophet had led, others were expected to follow. (Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1982, pp. 66-67)
This historic tradition underwent a drastic change after World War II. The European nations had suffered the loss of millions of their citizens during the war and their economies were devastated. The post-war years also saw increasingly low birthrates in these war-torn lands. It is not difficult to understand then why European governments encouraged the influx of a large number of foreign workers to help reinvigorate their economies.
Immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, and south-east Asia flocked in large numbers and settled in several parts of Western Europe. Many of these foreign workers were of the Muslim faith; and before very long, a few short decades, it became evident that the integration of Muslims in particular into the European societies that had welcomed them, would prove very problematical. Immigrants of other religious beliefs made much smoother transitions to Western values and traditions without losing their religious identities.
Quite often, criticisms were levelled against Western societies for their unwillingness to facilitate the assimilation of Muslim immigrants. But when one studied the problem, it became soon evident that it was the Muslim side that was unwilling, or unable to integrate within the societies that had welcomed them. Their unwillingness or inability was due to the fact that these immigrants brought with them a religious baggage that was antithetical to Western culture.
The year 2010 marks more than half a century since the arrival of large numbers of Muslims to the West. Several high profile events have taken place during this period that requires an examination of the specific problems that have accompanied “The Muslim in the West.” It was not only Western writers that have pointed to this situation, but some Arab reformist intellectuals have contributed articles that dealt with this troubling and alarming phenomenon.
For example, the Arabic-language reformist website, al-Awan published a book in September, 2009 with the title, “The Muslim in the West.” On 8 September of that year, it posted a portion of the Introduction to this book giving a brief summary of its contents. The following excerpts detail some of the serious problems that confront Muslims living in the West, as they seek to remain faithful to their traditions within a culture that adheres to a totally different worldview.

It is quite evident that most Islamic states, and especially those of the Arab world, suffer from chronic underdevelopment, violence, and intolerance. Furthermore, they have in recent times, experienced civil wars, ethnic cleansings, confessional strife, and bloody dictatorships which practice barbaric physical torture. Women suffer from discriminatory laws of various degrees, with respect to marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Forced marriages are still tolerated, and when it comes to crimes of honour, it is always the (woman) victim that is punished, while the aggressor goes free!
Almost daily, new fatwas are issued which advocate violence and hatred directed against non-Muslims; even a Muslim, who happens to disagree with their opinions, becomes a target of their attacks. Some religious leaders have transformed mosques into pulpits that encourage the young to engage in terrorist and suicidal attacks, promising them the prize of martyrdom as the shortest route to Paradise!
Satellite television stations play a major role in the spread of a culture of hatred through the preaching of Imams who quote Qur’anic texts out of their contexts, in support of their inflammatory sermons. Radical Muslim propagandists carry these messages to the West to influence the young Muslims who were born and brought up there. They push the youth to live within ghettos in total isolation from the larger Western societies. Thus, Islam has been hijacked in the service of political ideologies that seek to bring about totalitarian regimes, through the application of ‘Shari’ah Law under the rule of Allah.’
When we take these factors into consideration, we become aware of the many obstacles and challenges that face the Muslim living in the West, such as: “How to harmonize Islamic and Western values; how to succeed in education and work; how to re-educate young Muslims with respect to the relations between the sexes; and how to inculcate healthy and sane rules regarding courtship and marriage, that would allow the younger generation to live harmoniously within democratic and open societies.”

The author, having shared with us a portion of the Introduction, ended with these words:
It is for the sake of young Muslims living in the West that I decided to write “The Muslim in the West,” armed with my knowledge of Islam, its history, having lived around twenty years in Syria and Lebanon; and for the last forty years, in various Western lands. How I wish that those Muslims now living in the West could free themselves from those mediaeval and antiquated traditions, and bring about an open, modern, and civilized Islam! (Arabic source; translation ours)

Analysis
The Introduction to “The Muslim in the West” in its stark presentation of the cultural milieu that is operative in Muslim societies makes it easy to understand why any Muslim, whether young or old, might experience intellectual and emotional turmoil in varying degrees when living in Western societies. Freedom, while liberating to most people, for many Muslims is fraught with fearful possibilities to them personally, as well as causing complications in their belief system.  Islam has difficulty tolerating other religions, even in the West where it must do so.  The author laments the plight of young Muslims particularly, who, even though born in the West, are not always willing to accept its freedom, equality and tolerance.  His desire for them is to free themselves from their religion’s outmoded traditions and evil practices and strive to make it “open, modern and civilized.” 

Comments
One cannot know all the things covered in a book when it is only the Introduction that is under review.  But one can at least appreciate the good start this author makes in frankly setting forth the kind of culture that Islam has created where it is the dominant (and only allowable) religion. It is an exclusive faith claiming to be Allah’s final truth for mankind.  Christianity is also an exclusive faith claiming that Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life.  The difference between these two exclusive faiths in particular is that Islam seeks to compel faith and Christianity seeks to persuade.  The other world religions claiming their own brands of exclusivity have been able to live peaceably with the rest of mankind. This situation has arisen for the most part through the influence of Christianity and the Enlightenment.  Islam is not yet at peace with that pervasive influence.  Thus any soul heavily indoctrinated with the more intolerant aspects of Islam, whether living in the Daru’l Islam or in the West, will often view the principles of freedom, equality and tolerance so dear to Westerners, as concepts to be undermined, by forcing what they believe is a superior faith upon the whole world.
Missing in the “Introduction” was any reference to the root cause of many of the problems experienced by Muslims everywhere as they interact with the “Other.”  That root cause could be said to reside in the sacred and authoritative texts of Islam themselves: the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sirat (Life of the Prophet.) History has shown how those attempting to enforce such teachings on unbelievers have wrought havoc to their souls and bodies.  Examples are too many to even list, but 9-11 comes to mind for Americans, and every day in Africa, and the Middle East unbelievers, particularly Christians, are subject to violence and death.  It is to be hoped that the author would have covered this in the body of the book.
Another aspect of Islam was brought into play about a month after the original article appeared when this telling response to it, was posted on al-Awan’s website:
The problem of young Muslims living in the West is very complex. For them, Islam remains both a national and a religious identity. They have inherited a simplistic and illogical outlook on life from their parents, who are basically illiterate immigrants. Most of them belonged to the poor classes in their original homelands, and are thus a fertile ground for the growth of radical Islamist positions.
Indeed, how true this is. “Islam remains both a national and a religious identity” for all Muslims wherever they settle outside Daru’l Islam. This basic fact of every true Muslim’s thought world parallels Bernard Lewis’ observation:
For the Muslim, religion was the core of identity, of his own and therefore of other men’s. The civilized world consisted of the House of Islam, in which a Muslim government ruled, Muslim law prevailed, and non-Muslim communities might enjoy the tolerance of the Muslim state and community provided they accepted the conditions. The basic distinction between themselves and the outside world was the acceptance or rejection of the message of Islam. … The real difference was religion. Those who professed Islam were called Muslims and were part of God’s community, no matter in which country or under what sovereign they lived. Those who rejected Islam were infidels. The Arabic word is kafir, from a root meaning to disbelieve or deny, normally used only of those who disbelieve in the Islamic message and deny its truth. (Ibid., pp.171-172)

As long as Muslim immigrants and their children born in the West continue to regard Islam as the core and basis of their identity, they will find it difficult to become fully integrated into the West’s liberal democracies, whether in Europe or in America.  At the very least, they need to come to terms with the concept of toleration of the religious beliefs of the“Other.”   Likewise, they need to interact with the “infidels” in their new homelands with all due respect.  They have every right in these lands to propagate their faith.  But so do others have reciprocal rights to propagate different faiths.  There is much that needs to happen before things get better.  Too many mosques have imams who preach hate at the Friday prayer services.  Not much has changed over the years from when I used to listen on short wave radio to the Friday sermons from North African or Middle Eastern lands. Then, as now, the contents of these khutbas (official message of the imam) tended to be mostly political, rather than mainly religious or moral. Reformist Muslim intellectuals do draw our attention to the problems that accompany Muslims who have settled in the West, and how change is urgently needed.  Yet they remain unable to bring about any major reform of the Islamic homelands, where intolerance and radicalism is on the rise. Thus, if Islamic houses of worship in the West keep “importing” radical imams from these places, we can expect little change in the situation among the Muslim youth in Europe and America. They will remain alienated and prone to intolerance of the “Other,” even liable to committing acts of violence against them.  One can still hope that someday a more grateful attitude will be exhibited by Muslim youths toward the countries that first welcomed their parents and gave them employment and freedom to practice their religion in peace.  They still enjoy that freedom as well as even more possibilities to improve their material lives in every respect.

ISLAM-New Light on Slavery in the Islamic World


New Light on Slavery in the Islamic World

By Jacob Thomas
One of my earliest experiences remains quite vivid in my mind. My mother took me on a trip by train to visit her sisters who were at the time still living in southern Turkey, known in Biblical times as Asia Minor. I was impressed by the new sights in the big city where my aunts lived; it was there, for example, where I saw my first fire truck! One day, when visiting some of my aunts’ acquaintances, I was told by an elderly maid, “Be quiet, or else a black ‘abdeh will take you away!” What was unusual for me was not so much the order to behave, as I had heard that quite often. After all, in the Levant, children usually accompany their parents in their visits, but they must listen, and not talk! The new thing about that specific order was the reference to a black ‘abdeh (i.e. slave)! I’m sure that the elderly maid did not imply at all that there were black slaves living in that city. But her words pointed to an age-long baggage, namely that black people, regardless of their status in society, were not simply called blacks, but ‘abeed, i.e. the plural of ‘abd (masculine) and ‘abdeh(feminine).
Several decades later, and now living in America, I met a young Middle Eastern boy. He was at home both in English and in Arabic. So I asked him in Arabic, what his father did for a living? He answered, “My father runs a grocery store.” Curious to learn where that store was located, I asked him about the location of the store. He uttered two Arabic words:“M’a al-Abeed” (i.e. “the quarter of the slaves”), meaning that his father’s store was in the African-American part of the city! It is worthy of note that even in America, young boys and girls, growing up in Muslim families continue to call African-Americans, ‘Abeed!
Perhaps some may say that I’m making too much of these experiences, but I don’t think so. The continued reference to Africans as “abeed” (slaves) remains in the collective memory of Arabic-speaking people and points to the historical fact that Islam has practiced slavery for a very, very long time, a truth that should not be forgotten.  However, the type of slavery that flourished in Islam was very different from the experience of the African slaves that were brought to the New World. Let me explain.
As a teenager, I was an avid reader of Arabic novels. I had ample opportunities to read stories about the lives of the Caliphs, both in Baghdad, and later on, in Istanbul. It didn’t take long for me to notice that those who were employed in the palaces of the Caliphs were quite often called, black eunuchs. Those two Islamic metropolitans were quite distant from Africa, nevertheless, black men, having undergone the ordeal of castration and survived it, were considered very suited to serve in the harems of those potentates!
These early memories about the plight of the African slaves in Daru’l Islam became later on more troubling, as I began to read about the subject in scholarly works. In 1990, I picked up a book by Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry, published by the Oxford University Press. It was an eye-opener to read through Lewis’s thorough research of the subject.  He even included in the book 24 original illustrations taken from historic Islamic sources.
I realize that some people would remark that the British scholar is prejudiced against Islam. This opinion has spread primarily due to the influence of Edward Said (pronounced Sa’eed), who taught English Literature at Columbia University. In his book, Orientalism,published in 1978, he claimed that all Western scholars who studied Islam and the Middle East were terribly biased, and acted as servants of European colonialism. Unfortunately, his influence became the standard of orthodoxy in most of the Middle East Studies Departments at North American universities. As a Levantine Christian, and having studied this subject for a long time, I am convinced that Edward Said committed a great disservice to the understanding of Islam in our times. The most glaring fact about him was that he was not an expert on Islam, or the history of the Middle East.
Introducing the subject of slavery in the Islamic world, Bernard Lewis wrote:
“In 1842 The British Consul General in Morocco, as part of his government’s worldwide endeavor to bring about the abolition of slavery or at least the curtailment of the slave trade, made representations to the sultan of that country asking him what measures, if any, he had taken to accomplish this desirable objective. The sultan replied, in a letter expressing evident astonishment, that ‘the traffic in slaves is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam … up to this day.’ The sultan continued that he was ‘not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect, and no one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration that the light of day.’” (P. 3)
I dare say that works in English on the subject of “Slavery in the Household of Islam” are not that many. However, thanks to the Internet and the availability of Arabic-language websites, I continue to learn a great deal about this tragic phenomenon. In February, 2009, the Al-Awan website began publishing a series of articles under the general title of “The Invisible Walls: Racism directed against Blacks.” By March 7, twenty articles by Arab authors had appeared. I translated article number 17 that dealt with this subject: “Does Slavery in the Lands of Islam, Originate from within Islam?” (Source)
الجدران اللامرئية: العنصرية ضدّ السّود(17) هل يتغذّى الرقّ في أرض الإسلام، من الإسلام؟
Here are translated excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.
“The study of slavery in Islam has been considered a taboo; even Western Orientalists avoided this subject. For example, Louis Massignon (1883-1962) the well-known French Orientalist, did not consider slavery a subject that was worth his great concern. He dealt primarily with abstract problems of Islamic thought, rather than focusing on some concrete situations in the Islamic societies, such as the scandal of racism that persists to this very day!
“Regardless of the efforts of Muslims and their friends to cover-up this subject, ordinary Muslims are fully aware of this continuing tragedy. Some Western scholars have not hesitated to discuss the general topic of Islam and its age-long slave trade. For example, the French historian, Robert C. Davis, published his book, “Esclaves chrétiens, maîtres musulmans. L'esclavage blanc en Méditerranée (1500-1800)” in 2006. This work dealt specifically with the history of the Muslim slave-trade of European Christians from 1500 to 1800, by their Muslim masters.1
“What is rather new in our day is the fact that Muslim writers are now engaged in researching and writing about this subject. For example, the French-Algerian author, Malek Chebel, wrote a book in French on Slavery in the Lands of Islam. Also, the Moroccan Mohammed Ennaji, published his work, “Le sujet et le mamelouk: esclavage, pouvoir et religion dans le monde arabe”.2 (Info) According to him, slavery is not simply part of an ancient heritage, but has infiltrated into the very core of the Islamic State, and controls its thinking. The Arab World is held hostage to a worldview that has not repudiated slavery. Relationships of all types are still conceived in the context of master and slave.”
The Senegalese author Tidiane N’Diaye published his book, LE GENOCIDE VOILÉ, in January, 2008. This work dealt with what he called the “The Veiled Genocide,” i.e. the enslavement of Negroes by Arab-Muslims from the 7th to the 20th centuries.
Here are some pertinent excerpts from the information about this book (source), translated from the original French:
“The slave trade of Negroes as practiced by the Western nations is well-known. However, it must be recognized that historically, this crime against humanity was an invention of the Arab-Muslim world.  It was the Arabs, Berbers, Turks, and Persians, who originated this infamous practice long before the Europeans began the African slave trade. For one thousand years, they were trading in African people, from the 7th to the 16th centuries. They resumed the practice from the 19th to the 20th centuries, long after the Western nations had abolished this trade.
“The demographic stagnation, the misery, the poverty, and the lack of development in the Dark Continent, are not the only consequences of this commerce, as many people imagine. Actually, the Islamic slave trade in Africa amounted to a planned genocide of Black people. It was a programmed ‘ethnic extinction by castration.’ Thus, the majority of the 17 million Africans who were brought to the Arab-Muslim world and transformed into eunuchs have disappeared, leaving no descendents at all.
“We would like to underline both the early date, and the great dimension of this trans-Saharan traffic that took place in the Eastern world, and to give an account of these forgotten facts. No amount of willful and selective amnesia will ever succeed to cover up the historical fact about the ‘Veiled Genocide.’”
Analysis
Al-Awan website posted this series of articles to highlight the fact that racial prejudices continue to exist in the Arab-Muslim societies, as a result of the long history of the African slave trade. The 20 articles aim at demolishing “the Invisible Walls” that separate people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Comments
It is indeed a bold step that was taken by a group of Arab reformist intellectuals to broach the subject of the role of Islam in the slave trade in Africa. As far as I know, most of the original works on this subject have appeared in French, rather than in English. This means that the “unveiling” of the Islamic role in the infamous traffic in Africans is not adequately treated in the English-speaking world. I salute these courageous intellectuals who didn’t hesitate to express their strong condemnation of this inhuman practice that has lasted for too long, and still has many deleterious effects in the Sudan for instance.  How deeply slavery seeped into the mores of Islamic people is evidenced by the vocabulary of many Arabic-speaking people who still refer to people of African descent as black Abeed.

Footnotes
1 “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean (1500-1800)”
2 “Slavery, Power and Religion in the Arab World.”


ISLAM-Concerning a New Definition of Non-Muslims


Concerning a New Definition of Non-Muslims

By Jacob Thomas
Back in September 2005, I came across an article in the daily Arabic online Al-Sharq-al-Awsat with this headline: “On Defining ‘al-Akhar’ (the Other): A Discussion between Two Generations at a Preparatory Session of the National Dialogue Initiative.”
Here are excerpts from the article.

“On Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, the preparatory meetings of the National Dialogue Initiative that took place at the Meridian Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, ended. A large generational gap surfaced at the close of the discussions. It became clear, during the meetings which had lasted for three days that the sixty-three adult participants were looking for an exact and proper definition of “Al-Akhar.” At the same time, seventeen young men and women who participated in a training program, in conjunction with this meeting at Jeddah, had already completed their deliberations, having concluded that their relations with the “Akhar” must have one purpose only, that of calling him or her, to convert to Islam.
“The specific goal that had been set for these young men and women was to teach them the art of dialogue, and the proper means of communication. They were expected to learn the relation between dialogue and convincing the‘Other’ of one’s point of view, without alienating him. However, as far as these young people were concerned, only the non-Muslim should be classified as “Al-Akhar,” regardless of where he or she had come from.”

The fact that Saudis were discussing a new definition of the Other, indicates that a totally new situation in the history of Islam had surfaced. It was precipitated by the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia. This brought thousands of non-Muslims from Europe, America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, to work on Saudi soil. Their presence was essential for the economic wellbeing of the Kingdom. Added to that, millions of Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia rushed to work in Western Europe soon after the end of WWII. This new phenomenon has initiated serious discussions among Saudi intellectuals, as they begin to realize the full implication of emerging inter-dependent world.
The September 24, 2005 article went on to explain:

“The differences between the two groups did not consist only in their ages, or in the degree of their education. The real differences consisted in their definitions of the identity of the ‘Other.’ Here it must be mentioned that the theme of the dialogue initiative was ‘We and the ‘Other’: Toward a National Vision for Dealing with Western Cultures.’
“The average age of the academicians, intellectuals, and businessmen and businesswomen who met at the main hall of the Meridian, ranged between the mid-thirties to the mid-forties. As far as they were concerned, the term ‘Other’should be understood etymologically. In that sense, it should not carry any derogatory baggage, the non-Muslim should be known by his nationality, and not his religious affiliation.
“In contrast, the ages of the students who participated in the learning sessions and who had come from Saudi secondary schools, ranged between sixteen and eighteen. They defined the Other as a Kafir or Infidel. For them, the term was not understood etymologically, but culturally and religiously. So, as far as they were concerned, the goal for learning the art of dialogue was restricted toda’wa (calling) i.e. inviting the ‘Other” to embrace Islam, the true Pathway of Allah.”

Fast forward to 2009
In January of this year, the Kuwaiti website kwtanweer visited the subject of the need for a new definition of non-Muslims in an article with the title, “The ‘Other’ According to the Islamic View” (Al-Akhar fi’l Tsawwor al-Islami)
Here are excerpts from this timely article (explanatory footnotes are mine).

“According to the Islamic view, the ‘Other’ is any non-Muslim. He may be a follower of Judaism or Christianity, a Zoroastrian, or an atheist. Sunnis would add to this list all those who don’t follow their brand of Islam such as Shi’ites, Ismailis, Ahmadiyya, and Abadiyya. The vast majority of Shi’ites have the same attitude as the Sunnis vis-à-vis those Muslims who do not follow their own understanding of Islam, not recognizing, for example, Non-Twelvers Shi’ites.1
Muslim view of the ‘Other’ is not a theoretical subject; it translates itself into the practical areas of life on earth, as well as the afterlife. So we find real discriminatory practices in the areas of human rights, duties, and the treatment of those classified as ‘Others.’ For example, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, only a Shi’ite may become President; which implies the non-Shi’ite is not a Muslim, and is therefore not eligible to occupy the office of president! And even though the vast majority of Sunni countries with written constitutions have no specific article that bars a Shi’ite from assuming the office of president, nevertheless the very idea of such a thing happening is unthinkable.
“The discriminatory practices against non-Muslims are actually very grave. Usually, all non-Muslims are regarded as Kuffar. They may be either followers of revealed religions such as Christianity and Judaism, (with Zoroastrianism added by some Fuqaha2), or simply heathens. The difference between them is that the former are allowed to pay the Jizya tax, thus gaining the freedom to remain in their own religion, while the heathens have only one choice: either convert to Islam, or have your neck cut off! One must add here, for the sake of objectivity, that such an awful rule was seldom put into practice, even though the sacred text was very clear about that punishment! There were quite a few differences within the Four Sunni Schools for the interpretation of the Shari’ah Law whether followers of non-revealed religions (heathens,) may pay the Jizya tax, and thus avoid Islamizing.
“All non-Muslims living within Islamic societies are thoroughly marginalized. After all, the sacred text requires the killing of the Mushrikeen3, wherever they may be found. See, Qur’an, Surat al-Tawbah #9 (Repentance) ayat 5 and 29.
When the sacred months are over, slay the pagans wherever you find them. Capture, besiege, and ambush them. If they repent, perform prayers and pay the religious tax, set them free. God is All-forgiving and All-merciful (9:5)
Fight against those People of the Book who have no faith in God or the Day of Judgment, who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful, and who do not believe in the true religion, until they humbly pay tax with their own hands. (9:29)

“It is clear that the verses do require fighting those who do not believe in Allah, or the Last Day, and forbid what Allah and His Prophet have forbidden, and do not practice the true religion, even though they are the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), and they must pay the Jizya with an attitude of abject humility!
“Regardless of what the constitutions of Arab and Islamic countries may clearly state regarding nondiscrimination and equality between all their citizens, it is a well-known fact that non-Muslims are regarded with suspicion, and treated as second-class or third-class citizens. The testimony of a non-Muslim against a Muslim is not admissible in a court of law. When a Kafir kills a Muslim, he will surely be punished with the death penalty; whereas if a Muslim murders a Kafir, the Muslim is not liable to the death penalty, according to the Hadith of Bukhari. It is well-known that a non-Muslim may not marry a Muslim woman. Some authoritative texts command that Muslims may not greet Jews or Christians. And should a non-Muslim greet a Muslim, the latter may ‘take back’ (reject) that greeting. And when a Muslim meets a Jew or a Christian on the road, he should make it hard for them to proceed easily on their way.
“When it comes to the Jizya tax that Muslims are to impose on non-Muslims, it constitutes a very complicated matter in the relations between the two groups. At present, it is not applied in any Muslim society, even though the consensus of the Fuqaha is that it must be paid to spare the lives of the Kuffar, or merely to allow them to live within Daru’l Islam. Some even claim that the Jizya is a punishment laid on the Kuffar for their refusal to accept Islam. As Ibn al-Qayyim put it: ‘The Jizya is placed on the heads of the Kuffar to humiliate and debase them, making them feel inferior.’4
“While Islam was tolerant with the People of the Book in allowing them to practice their faith, nevertheless it placed upon them some severe restrictions such as forbidding showing the Cross over their churches, or praying and reading their Scriptures in a loud voice.
“Someone may say that most of these restrictions are no longer being applied.  This is true. However, the very fact that they exist (in the sacred texts of Islam) constitute a sword placed over the necks of non-Muslims that may go into action any time. This is why it is necessary to strengthen those constitutions and man-made laws (i.e. not based on Shari’a) for the protection of individual freedoms and personal rights against the encroachments of the religious leaders, by forbidding them to interfere in the peoples’ daily lives, in a tyrannical manner.”

Thus far the quotations from the article in the kwtanweer website.
The strength of his words is verified in the history of Islam itself and in its sacred texts. For example, at the very time when Islam was spreading its hegemony, at first in the Arabian Peninsula, and later on in the world at large, the two verses he quoted from the“Repentance” Surah explicitly mandated the killing of non-Muslims. Verse 5 is very clear in the Arabic original, “Faqtulu al-Mushrikeen haythu wajadtumuhom” translated as “kill the infidels wherever you find them.”

Verse 29 of that same chapter mandates fighting against those who give no credence to the basic teachings of the Qur’an, and refers specifically to “allathena ootu’l Kitab” i.e. those who have been given the Book which they consider to be Allah’s previous revelations (the Torah, the Zaboor or Psalms, and the Injeel).
While it is true that these Medinan texts are not being put into practice in many parts of the Islamic world where non-Muslim minorities live, yet they have not been abrogated, and may be used any time a radical Islamic group takes it upon itself to initiate a plan of persecution and murder of non-Muslims.

The writer ended his article by pleading for the strengthening of “those constitutions and man-made laws (i.e. not based on Shari’a) for the protection of individual freedoms and personal rights against the encroachments of religious leaders, by forbidding them to interfere in the peoples’ daily lives, in a tyrannical manner.” However, one has to ask: where in the Arab world can be found those who are willing to declare that man-made constitutions and laws should be considered as more authoritative or normative than the so-called “divinely-inspired” rules and regulations of the Qur’an? Thus, while I appreciate the author for bringing this subject to the attention of the readership of kwtanweer, I have to say that his closing sentiments are nothing more than wishful thinking!
So I must conclude that what I had read back in 2005, and at the beginning of 2009 about the quest for a new definition of non-Muslims, remains a merely academic subject. Nothing has changed in the Islamic worldview. One either is a Muslim or a Kafir, and the status of the latter does not improve be calling him, al-Akhar!

ISLAM-Western Christian Dhimmitude Versus Islamic Intransigence


Western Christian Dhimmitude Versus Islamic Intransigence

Jacob Thomas
On Sunday, 16 November, 2008, an article appeared in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal with this headline: “A Common What?  Yale hosts a Christian-Muslim ‘reconciliation’ conference – behind closed doors.” (*) The author, Sarah Ruden, who is a visiting scholar at Yale Divinity School (YDS), expressed shock at the school's requirement that  everybody on the campus behave properly during the Conference toward its Muslim guests by exhibiting deference to their sensitivities!
Before I comment on her article, some necessary background about the conference is needed.
Back on 13 September, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made a reference to Islam in his address at Regensburg, Germany. A month later, 138 Muslim scholars addressed the Christian World in a open letter entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You.” One Christian response to the “Common Word” overture came from scholars of the Yale Divinity School. They released a statement warmly embracing the open letter ‘A Common Word between Us and You.’”  It was entitled, “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word between Us and You.” Here is a sample of the flowery language used in that response:
 “…..‘Let this common ground’—the dual common ground of love of God and of neighbour – ‘be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,’ your courageous letter urges.  Indeed, in the generosity with which the letter is written you embody what you call for.  We most heartily agree.”

The authors of the Yale Divinity School Response asked others to sign on to its “Response” and gathered many signatures throughout the USA.  Some responses were surprising because they came from conservative Protestant institutions that typically are not willing to cooperate with organizations like YDS which they deem to be theologically liberal. But other Christian leaders saw through the YDS Response, regarding it as a weak and evasive document that served only the Islamic cause and did not reflect even basic Christian points of doctrinal difference with Islam. The YDS Response was seen as submitting needlessly to the Muslim scholar’s terms of engagement.  Even without expressly stating it, they brought to light the fact that those signing on to the Response acted just like dhimmis, meekly and obediently agreeing to the terms for dialogue set forth by the Islamic scholars.

The July, 2008 “Christian-Muslim ‘reconciliation’ conference” was the first formal meeting since the “Common Word” initiative was launched in October, 2006.  The WSJ article, offered a needed critique from one woman’s dissident standpoint of a Conference that was definitely less than stellar.  Once again, apparently, the fundamental issues that separate Christianity from Islam were not sufficiently on display.
What now follows is Sarah Ruden’s thoughts on the Conference, about which I will reflect in due course:
“I'm a visiting scholar at Yale Divinity School, not a student, and as a Quaker I can't be ordained, so I delete most of the institutional email notices unread. But I eagerly read the announcement that came in July of this year about the first conference to follow from the document called “A Common Word between Us and You.” That public expression by Muslim leaders of their solidarity with Christians had received a warm response from Western churches and universities, and now the conference was warmly entitled "Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Christians and Muslims."
“I recalled my excitement about the many luminaries' denial that there was any need for Christians and Muslims to be at each other's throats; I had been proud of the role played by Yale religious scholars. I now wanted to attend the conference and help to assure the guests of Christian goodwill, but also ask some of the hard questions that Quakers in South Africa, my second home, had been asking for decades, especially since the failures of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“But as I learned to my anger, neither I nor any other ordinary members of the Divinity School community could attend any panels of "Loving God and Neighbor." All of them were closed—extremely unusual for this institution. The purpose of Dean Harold Attridge’s email was not invitation but warning: "I am writing today to let you know how these events might impact life on the [Yale Divinity School] Quad" (his emphasis).
He continued in normal font. "Firstly, some of you have been asking about any adjustments regarding dress or behavior that might make both you and our guests feel more comfortable during their visit here. I have attached for your information a document prepared by the Reconciliation Program at YCFC [Yale Center for Faith and Culture] to guide all staff directly associated with the upcoming workshop and conference in regard to dress and behavior."
“My anger grew as I read the attachment …
“Because we seek to have a ministry of reconciliation, it is our aim to defer to our guests' [author's emphasis] sense of propriety whenever possible, by behaving and dressing in a manner that reflects the honor and dignity we wish to bestow upon our guests. In this specific context, Muslims and Christians are working together to organize this conference, but Christians are the primary hosts, meaning that during this conference we deferentially choose to define "decency," "honor" and "modesty" by what our Muslim guests consider "decent," "honorable" and "modest" (rather than by our own culture's definitions), giving new cultural expression to the dignity and respectability with which we normally conduct ourselves.”

“[H]ere we were being asked to ‘defer’ in all ‘definitions’—not just in our actions, that is, but in our thoughts. … We were to do this merely to allow meetings between some of our associates and people who would not, for fear of defilement, enter the same building we entered in our usual clothes and with our usual manners.
“But it isn't simply that I was ticked off (though I was) at being asked not to wear sandals or speak at any length to any male or even smile at one or shake one's hand, in order to accommodate a gathering I was excluded from, though it was held in my workplace. It’s that the Western leaders of what may be the major push for Christian-Muslim reconciliation appear to be so single-mindedly zealous, so prone to create impressions in conflict with reality, and so oblivious of what this could lead to, that a mere waste of time and money might be the best outcome.

“It is natural to suspect (especially because of the much greater secrecy) that both sides of the ‘Common Word’ project have motivations—if only careerism—beyond the desire to see Christians and Muslims kill each other less often. And it somehow makes sense that ordinary people world-wide are not gushing in letters to the editor and in coffee houses, ‘Thank goodness that they're talking to each other! Now everything will be OK.’
“The cost of a phony love-fest between Christian and Muslim leaders could be high. There is already a great imbalance in knowledge or respect, if not both. As part of our confirmation course, when I was a teenage Methodist in rural Ohio in the 1970s, we were taken not only to a synagogue but to a mosque and learned the basics of both faiths. But the Muslim cleric who lectured to us clearly disapproved of Christianity, and the minister misled him to keep the peace. We don't want to be called Mohammedans, the Muslim huffed; we don't worship Mohammed, who was a man. The minister jumped in to assure him that we were just the same—we didn't call ourselves Jesus-ans or anything like that. I nearly gasped at the lie, but I wasn't bold enough to challenge it.
“I'm bolder now. And truth in theology while theology approaches politics is worth a bold defense. Essential to Muslim extremism is the notion that the West is decadent and not attached to its professed values. Not to speak up for Christianity with complete honesty sends our Muslim interlocutors home with a time-bomb version of us: either that we have no objection to being like them, or that we are in essence like them already. America has made the mistake of assuming our values are universal, and we may be encouraging the same kind of assumption about ourselves.”
Perhaps Ms. Rudin was not the best person to reflect on this conference because her arguments are not as effective as they could be.  She exhibits some flippancy and over-personalizes the situation and appears to be a theological liberal.  She was perturbed about the demand that all the westerners show decency, modesty and honor in their attire at the Conference based on Islamic terms.  Not being allowed to wear “sandals” bothered her as well.  It should be noted, however, that conservative Christians also believe in dressing with decency, modesty and honor.  Of course, that would not mean being forced to wear a hijab in the presence of a Muslim, but there should be no undue concern about wanting to honor guests by dressing appropriately.  For instance, I would hope Ms. Rudin would agree that one wouldn’t go into the presence of the Queen of England in shorts and sandals.  What is worth noting about the issue though is that the YDS seems quite willing to overlook such virtues in the Christian theological tradition by making no similar code for its own scholars in their normal daily attire on the campus.  Yet it is willing to impose such a code upon its scholars if they wish to attend the Conference because they must show deference to Muslims.  So they are not really as interested in decency, modesty and honor as they are in being politically correct and deferential to Islam. 
A more serious flaw, however, was the YDS demand that the American women at the Conference had to be careful how they interacted with male Muslims.  Doesn’t this attempt by the YDS to placate Muslim malehood indicate an almost amusing example of Dhimmitude in action?  What the YDS would never for a moment dare to implement at its own school it has allowed Muslim scholars to achieve.  To placate the Muslim men’s Islamic faith the YDS allowed them to show their utter disrespect for Western women, particularly Americans, by making sure Muslims weren’t offended by having to interact with free, Western women at the Conference by any supposed misstep any such women might make in interrelating with them.  What an egregious view of women these Islamic scholars hold!  Why were they allowed to practice their peculiar disrespect toward women while the hosts set aside their own codes of honor toward women that apply in all other instances on the Yale campus?  The hosts truly make themselves look ridiculous, showing an almost criminal disregard for and disobedience of all the rules of decency, dignity and honor toward women which they so willingly comply with at all other times.   
Of even more significant concern, however, is the attitude the Yale Divinity School displays when dialoguing with representatives of Islamic organizations.  They almost totally gloss over the real obstacles standing in the way of genuine dialogue.  There are numerous theological differences that are simply incapable of being softened or toned down to comport with Islamic demands.  But the YDS is representative of a type of Christianity that does not necessarily hold to the historic Christian faith and is open to the idea that all religions are equally valid.  Most Christians would not agree with the YDS interpretation of Christianity.  Therefore they are not considered the best types of people to even be dialoguing with Muslims.
In the “Common Word initiative” Muslims were insistent on attempting to prove that there were subjects that are supposedly “common” to both faiths.  This is a theory needing much elaboration and explanation before one can note “common” themes in both religions.  Certainly, some simple things are similar but when explaining the overall beliefs of Christianity, most serious issues are definitely not “common”.  This Conference gave Muslims another opportunity to press their claims in this regard and perhaps even go further in attempting to ever more subtly put the YDS types of liberal Christians into more compromising positions.  And the Christian hosts of the Conference showed their willingness to bow down to the demands of their Muslim guests in creating a campus milieu at Yale University that would abide by Islamic rules.  This attitude is reminiscent of others throughout history that were subjected to and complied with the Qur’anic requirement thatdhimmis must not only pay the Jizya tax, but should do so with utter humility and self-abnegation!
I wonder! Are these Western scholars, who regard themselves as representatives of Christianity, really aware of the authoritative texts of Islam that require submission of all non-Muslims to Allah’s religion? And what about their knowledge of the history of the last 1400 years when the Islamic Futuhat brought into the orbit of Daru’l Islam, large areas of the world from Indonesia to Morocco? And if the American hosts at YDS don’t yet feel the pressure of the Muslim population in the USA, would a visit to Paris, Marseilles, Amsterdam, Brussels, London, and Berlin open their eyes as they observe how the growing Muslim populations are making ever more strident demands that, if heeded, would alter forever the democratic nature of those societies?  
I write these words mindful of two recent Arabic articles, one from the Alawan, and the other from the Elaph sites telling the unbelievable accounts of ethnic-religious cleansing that is going on in Mosul, Iraq, against Christian communities.  Christians are being driven from their homes and forced to flee for their lives by organized Islamist gangs.
In the rarified atmosphere of Yale Divinity School, such present-day tragedies are ignored because they don’t fit the alternative reality the YDS are attempting to instill on those gullible enough to accept them. Christians are forever reminded of and must apologize for the Crusades but the long, bloody history of Islam’s attempt at world domination is downplayed, if not totally ignored.
The scholars of YDS, while claiming that they are in the forefront of a movement that will bring reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, close their eyes to the fact that, throughout history, aggression has more often come from the Islamic side. Honesty must always surround discussions between opposing parties. Ignoring the lessons of history, and covering over the radical differences between Christianity and Islam, does not advance the cause of peace. Rather it increases the sufferings of Christians who live within Daru’l Islam.
Let us hope there will be more like Sarah Ruden willing to critique the inroads of political correctness on divinity school campuses and elsewhere in America.  We need to be cognizant of any future conversations between those who launched the “Common Word”initiative and their gullible friends among the YDS faculty and elsewhere.

The Incompatibility of Islam with Western Civilization

The Incompatibility of Islam with Western Civilization
“Muslims in the West: Lost within Modernity”
المسلمون في الغرب: تيه في الحداثة
By Jacob Thomas


Lately, more reformist Arab intellectuals have been addressing the problems facing Muslims who have settled in Western Europe. On Wednesday, 15 December, 2009, an article appeared on the Al-Awan website with this title “Muslims in the West: Lost within Modernity” (*).

The Algerian author has written on other problems facing first and second generation Muslims of Western Europe.  In this particular article he stressed the inner struggle that rages within the hearts and minds of these Muslims.  He says they are “lost within the modernity that is a distinguishing feature of Western civilization.” Here are excerpts from his article, in which he claims that Islam and Western civilization are incompatible. My comments follow.
Modernity is radically incompatible with Islam. According to the Islamic worldview, man’s life remains under the supervision of Allah; it is Allah who guarantees man’s freedom, and guides him in his life journey. But according to modernity’s view, man possesses an absolute value in the universe. He depends on his own reason, and by using his critical faculty, he determines his own responsibilities.
Does Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) encourage the use of reason, and the freedom of thought? Does the Islamic mind accept the basic foundations of modernity? For example, in Islam, the ruler is not held accountable to the people; his responsibility is to Allah alone. Muslims have no right to reject the Shariah. To date, not one Arab ruler has ever dared to rethink or amend the Shariah’s requirements. It is quite evident that Islam is not compatible with democracy; the very word “democratos” (people’s rule) contradicts the essence of Islam, where rule belongs exclusively to Allah.
Thus Muslims would never be asked to cast a ballot that will change halal1 toharam,2 and haram to halal! FIS (Front Islamic to Salut),3 the now banned Algerian Islamist organisation, used to portray such slogans as “An Islamic State, without Elections,” and “Democracy is Kufr.” These slogans should not be considered simply as the opinions of radicals, because they actually represent Islamic view of politics and governance.
Recently, in Bordeaux, France, the Moroccan Consulate objected to the cremation of a Frenchman of Moroccan origin, even though he specifically stipulated before his death that he wished to be cremated. Due to the pressures of the Islamists and certain Islamic governments, and in order to avoid serious trouble, the French authorities buckled and gave in to the pressures.  One should note that in Islam an individual’s wishes are subject to the will of the community.  It is the Umma that possesses the final authority in matters of life and death. Manifesting the same Islamic outlook, theimam of the mosque in Lille, who heads the Islamic League in Northern France, declared recently: “The concept of citizenship does not exist in Islam; the group or the community is very important. To recognize a community implies the recognition of the laws that govern it.”
“Thus, as a Muslim finds himself wandering and lost in the lands of modernity, he tends to isolate himself from his social environment. Within his inner life a raging civil war goes on; in fact the clash of civilizations takes place between his faith and the modernity that governs his surroundings, invading his very home! Immigrant Muslims don’t care about what the laws of their countries say. Rather, they give heed to what the Shariah demands. In democratic lands where the rule of law reigns, Muslims prefer to seek guidance from Islamic fiqh. You would be overwhelmed and shocked to learn about the multitude of fatwas that are issued daily in the Islamic world. As a Muslim seeks to become a true believer, his behavior must conform to all the demands of the Shariah, whether dealing with a minor or a major subject. Should a Muslim deviate from the demands of his sacred law, or neglect its guidance, he would earn the wrath of Allah. Such topics seem to haunt the Muslim: Is prayer lawful while flying and how could one determine the Qiblah?4 May a woman use kohl on her eyes during Ramadan? May men become doctors of gynecology?  Is it haram or halal to frequent swimming pools where men and women bathe?
According to the London-based television channel “Hiwar,” Dar al-Fatwa in Egypt issues daily, more than 1,000 fatwas in four different languages over the telephone; not counting another 500 fatwas handed to believers who seek guidance by going to the Center. You can hardly believe the questions addressed to this television station coming from Paris, London, Rome, Lausanne, etc. As for the mufti’s answers, they are nauseating.
Modernity offers a new approach for humanity. At its core, it celebrates the values of individual liberty, and independence. Thus, the contradiction between modernity and Islam is not an unimportant matter; it is a necessary result of its internal logic. Islam and modernity by definition are in conflict, because there is no way modernity can compete with Shariah in the mind and daily existence of a true, but highly conflicted, Muslim.
For example, Britain was, for the Muslim immigrants from Britain’s former colonies, their “Land of Promise.” Now that they have settled in the country, and become British citizens, they are working hard at its Islamization. Recently, Shaheb Hassan,the official speaker for the Islamic Council of Britain, called on the British to exchange their age-long democratic political institutions for an Islamic regime! Addressing them, he said: “Simply apply the Shariah, and this country would become a peace garden: amputate a thief’s hand, and no one would steal; stone the adulterer and no one would commit adultery. British society would benefit greatly by adopting the Islamic Shariah.”

Pressures on Western societies keep mounting to conform to Islamic laws. On 12 January, 2007, a German judge refused the request of a German lady of Moroccan descent, who wished to divorce her husband because he was beating her. The judge based her decision on the fact that the Qur’an allows husbands to beat their wives. Western Europe is called upon to learn about Islam, and to deal with Muslims in the light of their traditions.  This was recently illustrated in Amsterdam where members of its police force were all handed copies of the Qur’an to study in order to become more conversant with the Islamic way of life! And in Rouen, France, theimam of its mosque was dismissed for officiating at a mixed-marriage, and for delivering his sermon in French. His action was denounced by the officials of the mosque as being heretical.
Muslims living in the West who wish to practice Islam in the way it was traditionally practiced in their homelands necessarily find their problems increasing. Even in the simple area of choosing an occupation or finding settled work of any kind, a Muslim must be careful not to displease Allah.  When looking for a restaurant, he must find one that offers halal food so as to follow Islamic dietary laws. The list goes on. In the final analysis, a practicing Muslim has a very hard time accepting and becoming a part of the Western world and its modernity.  So whichever society of the West he and his family have settled in, the conflict continues and grows deeper!

Analysis
The Algerian writer shows a deep interest in and seems to be very concerned about the plight of Muslims in the West. It is obvious he would like to see them become assimilated into the rule of law and basic freedoms that Western traditions hold paramount.  He conveys to a Western reader that Muslims live conflicted lives in the cultures of freedom they inhabit.  The teachings of their authority figures do not help them assimilate but rather keep them in a conflicted state between freedom and Shariah tyranny. The basic problem, he claims, is the incompatibility of traditional Islam with Western civilization. As mentioned at the beginning of my article, a literal translation of the Arabic headline reads, “Muslims in the West: Lost within Modernity” (المسلمون في الغرب تيه في الحداثة).

Comments
This article describes the plight of North African immigrants who have settled in France and who find adjusting to life in their new homeland quite difficult.  The Algerian author lays the blame on the strictures imposed upon them by the Islamic Shariah. Guidance they receive from their imams at the mosques, or from other authority figures who issue fatwashas a strong hold on them.  The teaching of their religious leaders is meant to deal with and specifically answer the many problems they encounter in their adoptive non-Islamic milieus.  What it appears to be doing, however, according to this author, is contributing to a sense of lostness, and an inability to enjoy the peace of mind which they are taught is the reward of obedience to Sharia.
The writer does not offer any solution for the perplexed Muslims of Western Europe. As he put it in an article on the same subject published in a French-language website:
“Un islam sans prosélytisme, sans charia, sans Etat islamique, ce n’est plus l’islam… Ouvrez le Coran, vous serez bien servis!” (*)
(An Islam that does not practice proselyting, is without Shariah, and without an Islamic State, is no longer Islam.  Just open the Qur’an, and see that for yourself.”)
Having offered a definition of “true” Islam, he deems his fellow-North Africans lost, and wandering without much hope in a country that gave them many opportunities for fulfillment, especially in the area of vocation.  Yet this very environment, with both its challenges and blessings, has unsettled rather than pacified and pleased them.  They still hanker after the world of Daru’l Islam!


Footnotes
1 Halal:  In harmony with Shariah, and thus an allowable act or behavior.
2 Haram: Contrary to the Shariah, and thus a forbidden act or behavior.
3 FIS (Front Islamic to Salut): the Islamic Salvation Front, a radical Algerian organization that won the local elections in the early 1990s. That prompted the Military Government to annul the elections, and prevent FIS from participating in the national elections. Civil war resulted, with more than 200,000 Algerians losing their lives.
4 Qiblah points to the direction of Mecca, so that when Muslims are engaged in private prayer, or in the Friday prayers at the Mosque, they must face the Holy City; a tradition that goes back to Muhammad’s days in Medina.