Archive for category Islam

Pakatan Rakyat’s disintegration would mean Umno rules by default

― Liew Chin Tong
The Malay Mail Online
FEBRUARY 27, 2015

FEBRUARY 27 ― The potential disintegration of Pakatan Rakyat would mean Umno can continue its 60-year rule without challenge from a credible alternative or replacement. Umno has ruled the country since the first Federal Election on July 27, 1955.

The 2008 and 2013 elections have clearly shown that Malaysia is now in a 50-50 two-coalition competition, as far as elections are concerned. Yet the ruling coalition led by Umno is trying very hard to turn the clock back to a time when it was the sole power holder.

To turn the clock back, redelineation of electoral boundaries is high on the agenda of Umno leaders and the Election Commission. A constitutional amendment with two-thirds majority approval is required to increase the number of parliamentary seats. But Barisan Nasional has only 134 seats, which is 14 seats away from the two-thirds threshold.

So how can Umno do this? Read the rest of this entry »

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I never knew it is so easy to trap MCA and Gerakan leaderships into admitting their unholy subservience to UMNO by giving blank cheque agreement to UMNO Kelantan Assemblymen to support PAS hudud implementation in Kelantan State Assemby next month

I never knew it is so easy to trap MCA and Gerakan leaderships into admitting their unholy subservience to UMNO by giving blank cheque agreement to UMNO Kelantan State Assemblymen so support PAS hudud implementation in Kelantan State Assembly next month, although this will be a fundamental deviation from their founding party principles and the commitments of their founding fathers.

But first of all, let me express my amusement at the response of MCA and Gerakan leaders to my pre-Cabinet email Open Letter to the MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and the Gerakan President, Datuk Mah Siew Keong, asking whether they would notify the Cabinet that their resignations from Cabinet would instantly come into effect when the Kelantan UMNO State Assemblymen support PAS hudud legislation in the Kelantan State Assembly next month.

Without any sense of shame or mortification, one MCA national leader asked me to “show some guts” to emulate the late Karpal Singh.

No emulation of the past or present MCA or Gerakan Presidents?

How sad indeed! Even before they are dead, the MCA and Gerakan Presidents have ceased to be “avatars” even to the present generation of MCA and Gerakan leaders, and it has not occurred to any MCA or Gerakan leader to ask anyone to emulate anyone of the past MCA or Gerakan Presidents, whether Liow Tiong Lai, Dr. Chua Soi Lek, Dr.Ling Liong Sik, Tan Koon Swan or Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and Mah Siew Keong!

It is entirely different in DAP, for the late Karpal Singh continues to be the icon and standard for all DAP leaders to benchmark themselves – and the reason why the DAP had been able to stand tall in the Malaysian political arena despite five decades of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, is because DAP leaders are all as one, like Karpal, in our dedication and loyalty to our political principles and commitments.

I had previously offered the MCA and Gerakan Ministers and leaders a free tuition course in their party headquarters if they have difficulty understanding the political and constitutional implications of Kelantan UMO State Assemblymen supporting the PAS hudud implementation in the Kelantan State Assembly next month. Read the rest of this entry »

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I fought for all Muslims, says Borders manager after court frees her

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
The Malaysian Insider
26 February 2015

Borders Bookstore manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said her legal battle with Islamic authorities over a charge of selling and distributing a book deemed to be against Islam had changed her and made her realise her larger role to ensure other Muslims are not harassed for doing their jobs.

Given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the Shariah High Court today, Nik Raina said she had been a shy and reserved person before the raid on May 23, 2012 on the bookstore where she worked, but her ordeal had turned her into a more outspoken person.

Along the way, she realised that she had a role to play in facing up to the charges against her.

Nik Raina said most of the management staff at Borders are Muslims, and she feared they could be subject to the same intimidation if she did not stand up for her rights in facing the charges.

“I stand here today not only for myself, but for all my colleagues, especially the Muslims who could face the same action by the religious authorities for merely doing our jobs,” she said outside the court today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Liow Tiong Lai and Mah Siew Keong notify the Cabinet today that their resignations from Cabinet would instantly come into effect when the Kelantan UMNO Assemblymen support PAS hudud legislation in Kelantan State Assembly next month?

Open Letter to MCA President Datuk Liow Tiong Lai and Gerakan President Datuk Mah Siew Keong
25th February 2015 8 am

This is my third pre-Cabinet Open Letter for this month of February, but unlike the first two pre-Cabinet Open Letters to all Cabinet Minsiters, this is addressed specifically to the MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, the Transport Minister and the Gerakan President, Datuk Mah Siew Keong, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

It is clear that the UMNO/BN strategists are taking full advantage of a possible change of political dynamics in Pakatan Rakyat with the death of Tuan Guru Nik Aziz and the imprisonment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to refurbish and launch a devilish political plot to destabilize, divide and destroy the Pakatan Rakat which it rightly regarded as the greatest threat to the credibility and survival of the ruling coalition.

This latest UMNO/BN political plot has two phases, firstly and immediately to entice the PAS Kelantan State Government with UMNO support for the implementation of hudud legislation in Kelantan; secondly, the lure of “unity government” between UMNO and PAS.

This UMNO/BN political plot is a two-faced double prong one: on the one hand, UMNO promising and delivering support of UMNO Kelantan State Assemblymen to PAS Kelantan State Government in the Kelantan State Assembly on the implementation of hudud legislation in Kelantan next month; while on the other, MCA and Gerakan launching an intensive three-week publicity war against the DAP and PKR for “betraying the rights of non-Malays and non-Muslims” in supporting PAS Kelantan State Government in hudud implementation in the Kelantan State Assembly next month.

Top MCA and Gerakan leaders have started the political offensives and the MCA and Gerakan will intensify in the coming three weeks, focusing on the Kelantan PAS State Government’s stand in the Kelantan State Assembly on hudud implementation in Kelantan while totally ignoring the support of the Kelantan UMNO Assembly members to hudud implementation in Kelantan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nik Aziz dianggap liberal dalam usaha pecah tembok perkauman, kata pemimpin PAS

The Malaysian Insider
18 February 2015

Sebelum sebahagian pemimpin dilabelkan sebagai liberal dan mengamalkan pluralisme agama, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, mursyidul am PAS yang meninggal dunia Khamis lepas, terlebih dahulu menerima label sedemikian, kata Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Pengarah Pusat Penyelidikan PAS itu berkata, golongan agamawan, sama ada dari luar mahupun dalam parti PAS sendiri, tidak memahami strategi siasah dan pendekatan dakwah Nik Aziz dalam memecahkan tembok perkauman dan agama di negara ini.

“Hanya dengan ilmu yang mengizinkan Tok Guru meneroka dan merentas keluasan siasah dan dakwah serta faham batas-batasnya,” kata Dr Dzulkefly dalam satu tulisan sempena mengingati pemergian Nik Aziz, yang juga dikenali dengan panggilan Tok Guru, pada usia 84 tahun minggu lalu.

Label itu katanya, diterima Nik Aziz kerana orang tidak memahami pendekatannya yang luar biasa dalam menangani masyarakat plural dan pelbagai agama dan kaum di negara ini. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four views on Islam and the state

Can Islam support a secular, democratic government?
Christian Science Monitor
August 30, 2007

I need a secular state

By Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im

ALTANTA – To be a Muslim by conviction and free choice – which is the only way one can be a Muslim – I need to live in a secular state. By a secular state, I mean one that is neutral regarding religious doctrine to facilitate genuine piety. The state should not enforce sharia (the religious law of Islam) because compliance should never be coerced by fear or faked to appease state officials. When observed voluntarily, sharia-based values can help shape laws and public policy through the democratic process. But if sharia principles are enacted as state law, the outcome will simply be the political will of the state.
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Many Muslims equate secularism with antireligious attitudes. Yet I believe that a secular state can promote genuine religious experience among believers and affirm the role of Islam in public life.

The so-called Islamic state is conceptually incoherent and historically unprecedented. There simply is no scriptural basis for an “Islamic state” to enforce sharia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mutual friends: secularism and Islam

Brian Whitaker
Guardian
14 April 2009

The Middle East will only be convinced by Islamic arguments for a secular state

On the first page of his book, Islam and the Secular State, Abdullahi an-Na’im writes: “In order to be a Muslim by conviction and free choice, which is the only way one can be a Muslim, I need a secular state.”

He explains that he is not advocating a secular society but a state which is neutral with regard to religion – a state whose institutions “neither favour nor disfavour any religious doctrine or principle”, a state that has no enforcing role in religious matters.

The object of state neutrality, an-Na’im says, is to facilitate “the possibility of religious piety out of honest conviction” and allow individuals in their communities the freedom “to accept, object to, or modify any view of religious doctrine or principle”. States that take sides in such matters become an obstacle to religious freedom.

To some readers, this may be little more than a statement of the obvious. But to many Muslims, especially in countries where the state poses as a “defender of Islam” and an enforcer of “Islamic values”, it is not only an unfamiliar argument but one that sounds dangerously mad, even heretical. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not

Akbar Ganji
Dissident Iranian journalist; Intl. Press Association World Press Freedom Hero
World Post
01/27/2015

Introduction

Extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front in Syria, have transformed the holy Quran into a manifesto for war, terrorism and bloodshed. These groups use the most modern weaponry and technology, and their crimes have created worldwide concerns. Their goal is to return the Islamic world to the medieval age.

At the same time, the corrupt dictatorial Arab regimes in the Middle East, particularly the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, have transformed the democratic Arab Spring into a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis, in order to prevent democracy from taking roots in their own nations.

Simultaneous with such developments, a Western-made “industry” called Islamophobia not only presents the Holy Quran as the manifesto of fundamentalist warmongers (that claim to represent Islam) and their rigid interpretation of its teachings, it also reduces Islam to its skewed “interpretations.” This reductionist approach has been popular among the Orientalists. The approach also claims that formation of an Islamic government is a necessary condition for a society to be Islamic.

As I will argue in this essay, these claims are false.

Islam and secularism are completely compatible. What I call “secular Islam” is thus the best antidote for Islamic terrorism. “Secular Islam” means that the collection of beliefs, moral values and teachings which comprise Islam do not confer on Muslims a mission to form a government or state. The idea of establishing an Islamic state based on the Quran and the Sunnah is incorrect, as neither presents a model for such a state. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iranian film on prophet Muhammad set for premiere

Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Guardian
30 January 2015

Majid Majidi’s Tehran-backed production telling the story of Muhammad’s early years to be shown at Iran’s Fajr international film festival

As controversy swirls on how the prophet Muhammad is depicted, a multimillion-dollar biopic about his youth – Iran’s most expensive and lavish film to date – is set to premiere on Sunday.

Tehran’s Fajr international film festival, which coincides with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is scheduled to show the country’s own version of how Islam’s most revered figure lived. To protect the prophet’s dignity, the film will be shown out of competition.

Iran has been a vocal critic of the prophet’s portrayal in the west, recently expressing strong condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Paris, which depicted Muhammad weeping and holding up a sign reading Je Suis Charlie.

The film, to be originally released as Muhammad, Messenger of God in the festival’s opening ceremony, is made by Majid Majidi, a leading pro-establishment Iranian director who has worked for more than five years – with a great deal of secrecy – to produce what is only the second big-budget feature ever made about the prophet. The first film was Moustapha Akkad’s 1976 The Message, starring Anthony Quinn, which sparked controversy despite not showing the prophet on screen to avoid hurting Muslim sensitivities.

Majidi has had his own doubts about Akkad’s biopic, which he said failed to do justice to Muhammad’s life by showing “only Jihad and war” and also because “the image of Islam in that film is the image of a sword”.

Majidi’s state-sponsored film, which is the first part of an ambitious trilogy about the prophet’s life, tells the story of Muhammad from his birth through the age of 12, ending with his first visit to Sham (Syria) where Bahira, a Christian monk, is believed to have predicted he would one day become a prophet.

Iran is bracing for a large international release in March, at least in the English and Arabic world. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t ever use religion to justify caning women

Syerleena Abdul Rashid
The Malaysian Insider
30 January 2015

So apparently, there are some men who think that it is completely acceptable to cane women as a measure to reprimand her of her duties as a woman.

Most Malaysians are aware that we live in a patriarchal society, a system that favours men and disregards the significance of the opposite gender.

Understandably, certain ancient religious scriptures may highlight verses that may come across as permitting a husband to “strike lightly”.

A few days ago, a local daily reported that an influential individual expressed his thoughts on the matter. “Husbands are allowed to hit their wives for the purpose of teaching without the intention to hurt them or disgrace them. This method, however, should be the last resort after all other methods fail, including reprimanding her and sleeping separately,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Supremacy of the Federal Constitution

Azrul Mohd Khalib
The Malay Mail Online
January 21, 2015

JANUARY 21 ― The indignant tone that recently came out of Jakim’s Director General Datuk Othman Mustapha, who denounced the questioning of religious authorities as being part of a liberalism movement, is representative of the larger problem we have with the government religious institutions in this country.

They feel that they are above criticism. That they can do no wrong and are infallible. That to criticise them is to question Islam.

Yet, the attitude and actions of the religious authorities over the past decade have shown all too clearly why the Shariah system in Malaysia is where it is in our Federal Constitution.

There is an actual risk of abuse and misuse of power. It is not abstract or theoretical. It is very real. Ask Nik Raina of Borders. Read the rest of this entry »

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When an opinion becomes a criminal matter

COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
13 January 2015

It took no fewer than 20 policemen to arrest Eric Paulsen last night, just hours after Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin asked for an investigation into the human rights lawyer’s tweet that religious authorities were promoting extremism through Friday prayer sermons.

And it took no less than the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to use the same Twitter microblogging network to announce Paulsen’s arrest – akin to revealing a major breakthrough in solving crime or arrest of kingpins.

Impressive, to say the least, considering that Paulsen was left unmolested when he lodged a report earlier yesterday over death threats following his tweet, which he had taken down after a barrage of criticism.

There was no move to arrest him then although the IGP had already said there would be a probe into the lawyer’s tweet under the Sedition Act. None. Like clockwork, action was only taken after the DPM commented on the matter.

What is even more impressive is that Paulsen had yet to be remanded for the federal police chief to send off a series of tweets on Paulsen’s opinion about Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) sermons promoting extremism. Read the rest of this entry »

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If Europe is to overcome Islamist terror, it needs to fight for the values it holds dear

Paul Mason
The Guardian
11 January 2015

For many on the left, tolerance comes easily. But economic disarray has sapped the will to defend our principles of rationalism and individual liberty

There’s a map of Europe that was supposed to tell the main story. It shows the wealth created in every region in the European Union, colour coded: yellow for poor, green for average and purple for the rich areas that produce up to 125% more per head than the average.

The result looks as if somebody took a broad purple paintbrush, starting near Florence, and swiped upwards through the Alps, western Germany and the Netherlands, running out of paint a little around Denmark, but then colouring in most of Scandinavia.

The lifestyle in these rich regions is the outcome Europe aspired to when it adopted first the single market and then the euro. When the euro project was still working, it was assumed that around this highly developed central bloc of wealthy regions, crossing national borders, there might develop the paradigms of a transnational European culture. Think the high-spec family car, the regional opera house and the skiing holiday. It was, after all, along this geographic corridor connecting Florence with Flémalle that the Renaissance happened.

The eurozone crisis put an end to this conceit. But the current wave of revulsion against Islamist terrorism challenges us to ask, urgently, what the common European culture actually is. Austerity has drawn a horizontal line through the map of Europe, across which solidarity has not readily flowed. German unemployment this week hit an all-time low of 6.5%, while youth unemployment in Italy – even in the “purple zone” – stands at 43%. So if the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was aimed at sparking a culture war in Europe, it could not have been better timed. Read the rest of this entry »

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True Malaysian culture

Dyana Sofya
Malay Mail Online
January 9, 2015

JANUARY 9 ― I am a Muslim and I am a Malay. I am proud and I am okay. I am not an extremist.

On Wednesday, 12 people were shot dead as three gunmen attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in what some now call a militant Islamist attack.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief and four well-known cartoonists, along with two police officers, were among those killed. Apparently, the gunmen claimed to be “avenging the Prophet Muhammad” as they fled the crime scene.

Unfortunately, this tragedy is not an isolated incident. There is now a global trend of young confused Muslims resorting to murder and vengeance in a twisted idea of jihad, justifing their violence in the name of religion.

As the recent government White Paper on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria proves, even Malaysians are not exempt as 39 Malaysians were identified to have been involved in the violent jihadi movement.

This situation contradicts the nature of Islam as the majority of Muslims believe it to be ― the religion of peace. Tariq Ramadan is therefore right to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack as as a “pure betrayal of our religion,” which we all know to preach compassion and mercy.

In Malaysia, we face a similar problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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Boko Haram may have just killed 2,000 people: ‘Killing went on and on and on’

By Terrence McCoy
Washington Post
January 9, 2015

For months, fear of Boko Haram has gripped Nigeria’s northeast. The goals of the Islamic militant group, which captured international attention through a relentless campaign of brutality, have long been about killing. But last summer, something changed. Its aspirations became as much about territory as terrorism. It no longer wants to just cripple a government. It wants to become one.

In August, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced the establishment of his “Islamic Caliphate,” quickly taking over every corner of Borno State in northeast Nigeria. But one town called Baga, populated by thousands of Nigerians along the western shores of Lake Chad, held out. Anchored by a multinational military base manned by troops from Niger to Chad, it was the last place in Borno under the national government’s control. Over the weekend, that changed.

Gunshots punctured the early morning quiet. “They came through the north, the west and from the southern part of the town because the eastern part is only water,” one resident told the BBC. “So, when we [went] toward the western part, we saw heavily armed Boko Haram men coming toward us.” At the sight of the incoming insurgents, the soldiers put up a scant fight before abandoning their base and leaving residents defenseless. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blasphemy and the law of fanatics

Fareed Zakaria
Washington Post
January 8 2015

As they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They follow in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper offices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Like so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda.

One holy book is deeply concerned with blasphemy: the Bible. In the Old Testament, blasphemy and blasphemers are condemned and prescribed harsh punishment. The best-known passage on this is Leviticus 24:16 : “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”

By contrast, the word blasphemy appears nowhere in the Koran. (Nor, incidentally, does the Koran anywhere forbid creating images of Muhammad, though there are commentaries and traditions — “hadith” — that do, to guard against idol worship.) Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has pointed out that “there are more than 200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ . . . but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness. “In Islam,” Khan says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Raising Questions Within Islam After France Shooting

by David D. Kirkpatrick
New York Times
Jan 8, 2015

CAIRO — Islamist extremists behead Western journalists in Syria, massacre thousands of Iraqis, murder 132 Pakistani schoolchildren, kill a Canadian soldier and take hostage cafe patrons in Australia. Now, two gunmen have massacred a dozen people in the office of a Paris newspaper.

The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.

The majority of scholars and the faithful say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims — most notably the president of Egypt — argue that the contemporary understanding of their religion is infected with justifications for violence, requiring the government and its official clerics to correct the teaching of Islam.

“It is unbelievable that the thought we hold holy pushes the Muslim community to be a source of worry, fear, danger, murder and destruction to all the world,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt lamented last week in a speech to the clerics of the official religious establishment. “You need to stand sternly,” he told them, calling for no less than “a religious revolution.”

Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language. Promoted by groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, that discourse echoes through Muslim communities as far away as New York or Paris, whose influence and culture still loom over much of the Muslim world.

“Some people who feel crushed or ignored will go toward extremism, and they use religion because that is what they have at hand,” said Said Ferjani, an official of Tunisia’s mainstream Islamist party, Ennahda, speaking about the broader phenomenon of violence in the name of Islam. “If you are attacked and you have a fork in your hand, you will fight back with a fork.” Read the rest of this entry »

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After the Charlie Hebdo attack, we must resist the clash-of-civilisations narrative

Homa Khaleeli
Guardian
7 January 2015

Terrorism feeds on society’s fears – and the relentless questioning of Muslims’ loyalty plays into its hands

It’s hard to admit to a reaction other than sadness to the murder of 12 people, especially when it takes place in a city that feels so close by. The images of sprawling bodies and masked assailants on familiar-looking streets gives the tragedy an extra edge of horror.

Yet in the moments after the news broke about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I found it impossible to ignore a sinking feeling: the recognition that we were being pulled further into a cycle of distrust and division.

It grew as I read through the responses online. The straightforward reaction from far-right extremists was the hashtag #killallmuslims, which would have been easy to ignore as empty words if it hadn’t reminded me of the firebombing of mosques after the Lee Rigby murder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Charlie Hebdo: We cannot let the Paris murderers define Islam

Ed Husain
Guardian
January 7, 2015

Today’s fanatics are blind to the compassion and care in the prophet’s life. Their ignorance must be tackled head on

The killing of journalists in Paris on Wednesday was not only an attack on France but also an assault on Islam and the very freedoms that allow 30 million Muslims to prosper in the west.

Free speech is not a western concept: it is a universal craving of the human soul. The gunmen ran away shouting that they were “avenging the prophet Muhammad”. How dare they? We cannot let the murderers define Islam.

In seventh-century Mecca, it was the prophet Muhammad who fought for free speech to proclaim one God as the creator of life and worthy of worship. The city’s pagans were his violent persecutors.

Today Muslims live freely in every European country because of the very freedoms that the terrorists struck at. Without the freedom to blaspheme and believe, Muslims would be seen as heretics and would be unable to flourish as faith communities in the west. The pogroms and wars of religion in Europe’s history bear testament to European life without freedom. Read the rest of this entry »

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Charlie Hebdo: The ‘them and us’ narrative is a dangerous downward spiral

Nesrine Malik
Guardian
January 8, 2015

It may suit cynical politicians to push the ‘clash of civilisations’ line, but such polarised thinking is simplistic and can be deadly

It has already started – the talk of a clash of civilisations. After the horrific Paris attack in which 12 people were killed, there is a palpable sense of a Europe on the edge, teetering between righteous anger and tense restraint. Many of the subsequent reactions have fallen along the predictable lines of reasserting the difference between “us” and “them”.

But the Paris attack was not yet another front in the “clash of civilisations”. The term civilisation in itself is meaningless in this context. What civilisation do the terrorists represent? It is understandable that, on the face of it, the attack highlights the perpetrators’ and the victims’ starkly opposed values, one barbaric and silencing, and the other enlightened and freedom loving.

But this is a false dichotomy. It omits a far more uncomfortable and complicated truth about racial tension in France, immigration, and how Muslims are settling in an increasingly secular Europe where the resurgence of rightwing parties has further racialised religion. Read the rest of this entry »

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