Archive for category Islam

Iran, Emerging From Sanctions, Faces More Isolation After Embassy Attack

by Thomas Erdbrink
New York Times
Jan 4, 2016

TEHRAN — When a Saudi state executioner beheaded the prominent Shiite dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, the Shiite theocracy in Iran took it as a deliberate provocation by its regional rival and dusted off its favored playbook, unleashing hard-liner anger on the streets.

Within hours of the execution, nationalist Iranian websites were calling for demonstrations in front of the Saudi mission in Tehran and its consulate in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad.

The police, outmanned, looked the other way as angry protesters set the embassy ablaze with firebombs, climbed the fences and vandalized parts of the building.

Now, Iranian leaders are suddenly forced to reckon with whether they played into the Saudis’ hands, finding themselves mired in a new crisis at a time they had been hoping to emerge from international sanctions as an accepted global player. Iran might have capitalized on global outrage at the executions by Saudi Arabia, but instead finds itself once again characterized by adversaries as a provocateur in the region and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State find common ground in beheadings

By Adam Taylor
Washington Post
January 4, 2016

Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has faced recurrent criticism that its ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law is not so far off from what is practiced by the Islamic State, an extremist organization that proclaimed its “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014. The criticism clearly irks some Saudi officials, who have threatened legal action against social media users who make the comparison with the Islamic State.

This weekend’s announcement that Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia in a day has added considerable fuel to the fire, however. Saudi authorities have acknowledged that some of those executed were beheaded — a technique widely used and publicized by the Islamic State.

In just one sign of broader official outrage at the execution of Nimr, the website of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released an image that contrasts the Saudi kingdom’s use of beheadings with the Islamic State’s decapitation videos. “Any differences?” it asks, showing a Saudi executioner with a sword standing over a kneeling man.

The idea that Nimr could have been beheaded will only inflame sectarian tensions in the Muslim world, with Shiites remembering the way that Husayn ibn Ali, the third Shiite imam, was beheaded by the Sunni Umayyad caliphate in the seventh century. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi action “resets geopolitical chessboard” in Middle East, says expert

By Anakhanum Khidayatova
Trend
4 JANUARY 2016

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a Cold War via proxy, in its most recent manifestation, since the Arab Spring, in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and in other countries around the world through humanitarian aid and dawa (outreach), Theodore Karasik, the Middle East analyst and senior advisor to Risk Insurance Management in Dubai, told Trend Jan. 4.

“This Cold War entered a dangerous, highly confrontational phase in the past few days. The Kingdom, in mid December, prepared the steps for today, with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announcing a Sunni Muslim Alliance. With the Saudi execution of the “terrorist extremist” Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was the spiritual leader of Saudi Shiites in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, the sectarian divide grew immediate into a deep chasm”- he said.

The expert also said that Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim Alliance is now fully activated with the al-Nimr execution. Read the rest of this entry »

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European Sympathies Lean Toward Iran in Conflict with Saudi Arabia

by Sewell Chan
New York Times
JAN. 4, 2016

LONDON — In the days since Saudi Arabia inflamed tensions with Iran by executing 47 people, including a Shiite cleric, European observers have been quick to condemn the action, reflecting broader concern across the Continent about Saudi policy and its role in the tumult rolling through the Middle East.

Opposition in Europe to the death penalty — and harsh corporal punishment, including the flogging of a Saudi blogger who has become something of a cause célèbre in Europe — is just one element of the criticism of the Saudi monarchy. Even as European governments continue to view Saudi Arabia as a vital if problematic stabilizing force in the region, as well as a rich market for European arms and other products, European opinion has grown increasingly critical of Saudi support and financing for Wahhabist and Salafist preachers who have contributed to the Sunni extremist ideology that has fueled Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In addition, the European Union and six major world powers reached a deal in Vienna over the summer to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran is seen as essential to ending the five-year-old civil war in Syria, which has fueled a surge of migrants to the Continent, the highest number since World War II.

So for many Europeans, Iran — long a pariah because of its anti-Western rhetoric and its nuclear program — has suddenly become, at least in comparison with Saudi Arabia, an object of sympathy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iranian Protesters Ransack Saudi Embassy After Execution of Shiite Cleric

by Ben Hubbard
New York Times
JAN. 2, 2016

Iranian protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday after Saudi Arabia executed an outspoken Shiite cleric who had criticized the kingdom’s treatment of its Shiite minority.

The cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was among 47 men executed in Saudi Arabia on terrorism-related charges, drawing condemnation from Iran and its allies in the region, and sparking fears that sectarian tensions could rise across the Middle East.

The executions coincided with increased attacks in Saudi Arabia by the jihadists of the Islamic State and an escalating rivalry between the Sunni monarchy and Shiite Iran that is playing out in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Sheikh Nimr was an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy and was adopted as a symbolic leader by Shiite protesters in several Persian Gulf countries during the Arab Spring uprisings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Senior political leader who lied about the DAP being offered RM1.2 billion in exchange for an Israeli naval base in Port Dickson will have to pay the heavy price in court for making false and defamatory statement

There is recently a culture of political desperation in the country.

This could be seen from the New Year Message by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday claiming that his twin RM2.6 billion and 1MDB mega scandals are no more, when they are never more alive and kicking, growing ever bigger in scale and impact, that Malaysia has just been “crowned” as the world’s third most corrupt country – thanks to Najib’s twin mega scandals!

What beggars the imagination is how Najib could make such an outrageous claim when he himself could not possibly believe it, unless he has left the real world of politics and entered the world of make-believe!

Another example of such political desperation is the regurgitation of wild and reckless allegation by a senior political leader of another political party about the DAP’s ties with Israel, and the preposterous allegation that the DAP was offered RM1.2 billion by Israel if we win the general elections in exchange for the building of an Israeli naval base in Port Dickson.

Senior political leaders from other political parties who lied about the DAP, like the one who made the preposterous allegation about the DAP being offered RM1.2 billion in exchange for an Israeli naval base in Port Dickson, will have to pay the heavy price for such baseless and reckless allegations in the courts.

All political leader must learn the hard lesson that they cannot just get away with lies or the most preposterous allegations, or seek refuge for their nefarious and dastardly deeds by claiming they were merely recycling such lies and falsehoods by “men of straw” or some insubstantial characters!

According to Al-Quran, slander is a crime worse than murder. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Christmas wish

Lyana Khairuddin
The Malaysian Insider
23 December 2015

It is really easy to get caught in the hype and commercialisation of Christmas.

Let’s be realistic here, Christmas no longer represents merely a religious holiday that marks the birth of Jesus, but rather an occasion for merrymaking with friends over food, that great unifier of mankind.

Of course, in Malaysia, our turkeys are halal-certified and our merrymaking involves being served orange juice in wine glasses. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Indonesia winning its fight against Islamic extremism?

By Mike Thomson
BBC News, Jakarta
19 December 2015

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but are its local Islamic traditions in danger of being overtaken by fundamentalism?

As I thread my way through crowds of worshippers at central Jakarta’s grand Istiqlal Mosque, traditionally dressed religious students grab my arms and pull me towards them.

“Take your photo with me!” shouts one. “No, first with me!” shouts another. Several small cameras appear as I am propelled to the centre of their smiling, boisterous group. All raise their thumbs in the air as the cameras start clicking.

I have visited many mosques around the world and I cannot remember ever getting such a warm and friendly reception. Though when I relate this experience to Yenny Wahid, founder of a Jakarta-based research centre on religion and daughter of the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, she is not surprised.

This, she says, is an example of a particularly Indonesian approach to Islam, known as Archipelago Islam.

“It really puts an emphasis on moderation, on tolerance, on protecting minority rights and basically has a big emphasis on a life of harmony,” she says. “So, it’s not strange when you see a woman in a headscarf walking hand in hand with a nun here.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum

Joseph Chinyong Liow
Brookings
April 2015

The recent emergence of an ISIS recruitment video featuring young Malay (possibly also Indonesian) speaking boys attending religious classes and engaging in weapons training in ISIS-held territory has caused a furor in Malaysia. Estimates of the number of Malaysian fighters in ISIS vary from between 60 to almost 150, depending on who you ask. The high end of these figures approximates the number of Indonesian fighters that are also believed to be in Syria and Iraq. Yet the population of Malaysia is barely one-tenth that of Indonesia. In other words, Malaysians seem to be joining ISIS at a higher rate than Indonesians.

This state of affairs is all the more perplexing given how often Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, waxes lyrical on the international stage about moderation and how Malaysia is the epitome of multi-ethnic and inter-religious harmony, as he continues to press a nebulous “Global Movement of Moderates” agenda.

What accounts for the appeal of ISIS in “moderate” Malaysia? Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia: Clear and present danger from the Islamic State

James Chin
Brookings
December 16, 2015

Two weeks ago, an internal Malaysian police memo was leaked to the media. The leak came after Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he and several other Malaysian leaders were on the IS hit list. The memo gave details of a November 15th meeting between the militant groups Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic State (IS), and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in Sulu, the southern Muslim-majority part of the Philippines. Attendees passed several resolutions at the meeting, including regarding mounting attacks in Malaysia, in particular Kuala Lumpur and Sabah in eastern Malaysia. The report mentioned that eight Abu Sayyaf and IS suicide bombers were already on the ground in Sabah, while another ten were in Kuala Lumpur.

While the news shocked many Malaysians and foreigners living in Malaysia, for Malaysia watchers, it was nothing new. There is general consensus in Malaysian security and intelligence circles that IS and home-grown Islamic radicals are planning a terrorist attack in Malaysia. For the past two years, in fact, Malaysia’s security services managed to disrupt at least four major bombing attempts. Their targets are mainly symbolic, such as beer factories and government buildings. Others were senior political figures and tycoons to be held for ransom and propaganda. IS regards the Malaysian government (and neighboring Indonesia) as un-Islamic and a pawn of the West.

While the Malaysian government is lucky that its intelligence services are on top of the situation, there are recent signs that they may be overwhelmed by the scale of the threat and the number of operatives involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAS loses shine with campus students

by Zulkifli Sulong
The Malaysian Insider
14 December 2015

Groomed by PAS in university for a future in politics, four close friends who lived and studied together, and were part of the Islamist party’s campus network, have decided to abandon the party and affiliate themselves with other political parties instead.

In events that mirror developments at the national level after PAS progressives left to form Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), the four friends, Khairul Najib Hashim, Mohammad Amar Atan, Fahmi Zainol dan Adam Fistival Wilfrid, said they found PAS to be stifling.

The Universiti Malaya (UM) student activists said the PAS network, also known as “jemaah” (congregation) on campus was controlling and restrictive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Retraining Ustazs into Global Communicators

Professor Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi
UCSI University
8th December 2015

In my previous article, I had suggested that most Muslims have a disturbing attitude that the only civilization that they are concerned with is only the 1500 years of Islam in the Muslim world. Muslims seem to look down and even reject the sum total of human civilization as ‘jahili’ or ignorant.

I think this is the wrong attitude to take and my reading of the Qur’an and hadiths does not conclude such a stand. The problem with most Muslims is simply that they let their thoughts and ideas be formed by the religious scholars trained in the limited mindset of the Madrasa.

Muslims are either too lazy to read and understand the Qur’an and hadith on their own or they are being frightened by the clerics that studying these sources without the ‘proper’ guide of ustazs will make them go astray and incur the wrath of Allah The Most High.

I have therefore called many times in my writings to reeducate the ustazs or religious teachers by exposing them to the greater awareness of the rich thoughts and ideas of humanity. Muslims, in brief, must be brought back into the fold of humanity.

It does not mean that Islam is being ‘compromised’ but I have enough experience as an academic that the interpretation of an event or an idea is more meaningful and richer when a larger context is used rather than a small one.

If ustazs were trained in the USA or Britain or Europe, they might have different views and interpretation of the sources of Islam then those trained in the so called Muslim countries of Egypt, Saudi Arabia or India or Iran.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Islam in a Constitutional Democracy

— G25 Forum
Malay Mail Online
December 6, 2015

DECEMBER 6 — We, members of G25, at the conclusion of the Forum on Islam in a Constitutional Democracy at PAUM in Kuala Lumpur on December 5 and 6, 2015, agree on the following statement of reaffirmation:

Having discussed the role of Islam in a Constitutional Democracy under four themes namely;

i) The Federal Constitution and Shariah Law.

ii) Issues of Conflict between Shariah law and Civil law, and impact on the Federal /State division of powers in Malaysia’s legal system.

iii) Islamisation and its Consequences.

iv) Islam and Politics.:

Reaffirming our commitment to upholding the Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Nation;

Reaffirming our commitment to upholding the Rukun Negara which articulates the principles and goals that should guide the Nation;

Reaffirming our belief that political stability and economic progress in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation like Malaysia can only be achieved when there is racial harmony, tolerance, understanding and co-operation amongst the various communities; Read the rest of this entry »

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Paris and California Shootings: What Are Muslims Teaching Their Children?

Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi
7th Dec 2015

In the wake of the horrific events in Paris and California the so called ‘middle ground’ Muslims are quick to denounce them as the work of an ‘extreme’ faction. Well, I have got news for the world. In my thesis, it is these so called ‘middle ground’ Muslims that ultimately give birth to these extremist factions they fear so much.

Perhaps many are in disagreement and in shock to my statement. I will elucidate.

Firstly, what do I mean by ‘middle ground Muslims’? Read the rest of this entry »

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Zaid Ibrahim’s Pristine Jihad and Purest Dakwah

M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com
23rd November 2015

[Foreword to Zaid Ibrahim’s latest book, Assalamualaikum. Observations on the Islamization of Malaysia, published by ZI Publications and launched on November 20, 2015 by former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir.]

Muslims believe the Koran to be a guide from God; “for all mankind, at all times, and till the end of time.” That is a matter of faith.

The essence of the Koran is Al-amr bi ‘l-ma’ruf wa ‘n-nahy ani ‘l-munkar. That message is repeated many times in our Holy Book. The approximate translation is, “Command good and forbid evil;” or in my Malay, “Biasakan yang baik, jauhi yang jahat.” Succinct and elegant in both languages as it is in the original classical Arabic!

This central message is often missed in the thick tomes of religious scholars, erudite sermons of bedecked ulamas, and frenzied jingoisms of zealous jihadists. Meanwhile in Malaysia, Islam is reduced to a government bureaucracy manned by control-freaks intent on dictating our lives. Yes, they are all men.

Their mission has little to do with that golden rule. Theirs is an exercise of raw unbridled power, all in the name of Allah of course. Not-too-bright and self-serving politicians are only too willing to ride this Islamic tiger. Once ridden however, it is mighty difficult to dismount, as the Afghanis and Pakistanis are finding out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yapeim in the spotlight – who, what and why

Malaysiakini
17 Nov 2015

The Malaysian Islamic Economic Development Foundation (Yapeim) was created in 1976 under the Trustees (Incorporation Act) 1952 and is similar to a charity trust fund.

However, Yapeim is not an ordinary charity trust fund as it is supported by the government with the prime minister as its patron, who delegates a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, normally in charge of Islamic affairs, to oversee the organisation.

Yapeim is managed by its president, deputy president and a board of trustees whose members are appointed by the minister.

It participates in various economic activities including running supermarkets, gold trading and in real estate with part of the profits used to fund welfare programmes.

Why is Yapeim in the middle of a controversy now? Read the rest of this entry »

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Do Paris terror attacks highlight a clash of civilisations?

Gideon Rachman
Financial Times
November 16, 2015

Multiculturalism is not a naive liberal aspiration — it is the reality of the modern world

Ever since the late Samuel Huntington predicted that international politics would be dominated by a “clash of civilisations”, his theory, first outlined in 1993, has found some of its keenest adherents among militant Islamists. The terrorists who inflicted mass murder on Paris are part of a movement that sees Islam and the west as locked in inevitable mortal combat.

Leading western politicians, by contrast, have almost always rejected Huntington’s analysis. Even former US President George W Bush said: “There is no clash of civilisations.” And everyday life in multicultural western nations, most of which have large Muslim minorities, offers a daily refutation of the idea that different faiths and cultures cannot live and work together.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, that core idea needs to be reaffirmed. And yet a necessary restatement of liberal values should not prevent a sober acknowledgment of some malign global trends. The fact is that hardline Islamism is on the rise — even in some countries, such as Turkey, Malaysia and Bangladesh, previously regarded as models of moderate Muslim societies. At the same time, the expression of anti-Muslim prejudice is entering the political mainstream in the US, Europe and India.

Taken together, these developments are narrowing the space for those who want to push back against the narrative of a “clash of civilisations”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tun Dr Ismail’s son wants Jakim abolished

by Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
9 November 2015

There was a time in the country’s history when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) did not exist, Putrajaya did not tell Malaysians how to practise their faith, and no one batted an eye when Muslims owned dogs.

And the former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman’s eldest son, Tawfik Ismail, wants those days back.

The main step is to dissolve Jakim, Tawfik said during an interview in conjunction with the release of “Drifting into Politics”, a collection of his late father’s writings during the nation’s formative years, edited by Tawfik and academic Ooi Kee Beng. Read the rest of this entry »

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For some Muslims, life in Malaysia is like living under a microscope

by Boo Su-Lyn
Malay Mail Online
October 5, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — Several Muslims say Islamic laws should not be used to regulate their personal lives in areas like sex, what they eat, or even what they read, after a publisher failed to challenge at the Federal Court a Shariah enactment used to seize a book on Islam.

Communications manager Ahmad Ariff Azmi, 27, who is currently living in Australia, noted that Muslims in Malaysia suffer from restrictions, such as identifying with alternative schools of thought as religious authorities only allow the practice of the Shafi’i school.

“I don’t think faith needs a regulatory authority,” Ahmad Ariff told Malay Mail Online, when asked if Shariah laws should not regulate areas like praying, drinking, dressing or having sex.

“There are too much politicking and corruption rife in Malaysian governance that can also be found with the individuals governing these religious institutions. It is Allah’s law; you as the individual have to self-regulate and interpret within yourself to what you think will please the Creator and ultimately gain your eternal salvation,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »

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When sermons become hate speeches

Syerleena Abdul Rashid
The Malaysian Insider
2 October 2015

During the recent Aidil Adha celebrations, it was reported that the Pahang Mufti Department allowed some very detestable things to be broadcasted.

The sermon aimed at the opposition, in particularly; Malay Muslims who joined DAP by insinuating that they had gone against Islam by joining the political party.

The script stated, “The separation is because they priorities political parties, such as Umno, PAS, PKR and even the new Gerakan Harapan Baru more than Islam.”

“Furthermore, there are Muslims who joined DAP, which is clearly against Islam.”

Therein lays a problem most Malaysians are too afraid to admit: the contentious issue where sermons are being misused as political propaganda and have seemingly swayed from the authenticity of religious teachings. Read the rest of this entry »

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