Archive for category Political Islam

There is no such thing as an irresistible “green tide” phenomenon

I do not subscribe to the view that there is an irresistible “green tide” phenomenon in Malaysia that will transform the country into a complete Islamic state by 2032 in the 17th General Election (GE17), just as I had not endorsed the theory in the fifties in the last century of the inevitability of the victory of communism in the world.

There is no such thing as the inevitability of events or a theory, whether in international affairs or national politics.

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The Guardian view on the Arab spring: it could happen again


The Arab world is home to 5% of the global population, but accounts for half of all terrorist attacks. With poverty outpacing the growth in numbers of young people and democracy crushed, a revolt could re-emerge

This month marks six years since the beginning of the Arab spring, a series of events that were meant to be a major turning point in the modern Middle East.

It was the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor and his death on 4 January that initiated a revolutionary year.

The subsequent protests energised ordinary Arabs, who recovered, it seemed, a popular self-confidence diminished by six decades of autocracy.

The Arab street was honoured for its people’s courage and determination, inspiring movements across the world. Protesters did not just voice their complaints, it was said, they changed the world. Four Arab leaders fell.

Yet six short years on those dreams are now in tatters. In Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, a counter-revolution has returned a military dictatorship. Much of Libya and Yemen is reduced to rubble in a war where outside powers are the principal actors, prepared to fight until the last local is dead. Syria is in ruins, stained by rivers of blood.

The sole democratic success was Tunisia, which did see a peaceful transition from authoritarian rule to elective government. The main Islamist party won power and last year declared it would end all of its cultural and religious activities to focus only on politics – becoming a Muslim democratic party, rather like its western Christian counterparts.

But every silver lining has a cloud: Tunisians make up the largest number of foreign fighters in the ranks of Islamic State. Read the rest of this entry »

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Excommunicating Saudis? A New Fracture Emerges in Islam

Wall Street Journal
Sept. 22, 2016

International conference in Russia’s Chechnya leaves out Saudis, creating fresh religious strife — this time within Islam’s Sunni sect

Political conflicts in the Middle East between the Saudi-led camp of Sunni powers and a rival Shiite camp led by Iran have already morphed into a religious war. Now, a theological dispute within Sunni Islam is causing another regional political rift — a result of an initially obscure conference in Russia’s Chechen Republic.

Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — just re-elected with a modest 98% of the vote — is a follower of the Sufi current of Sunni Islam. The diverse and more mystical version of the Muslim faith is one long at odds with the puritan Islam promoted by Saudi Arabia and based on the teachings of 18th-century cleric Mohammed ibn Abdel Wahhab.

Normally, Mr. Kadyrov, a former Islamist rebel known for his fierce loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and for using his Instagram account to solicit citizens’ help in locating a missing cat, isn’t considered an authority on Islamic affairs, at least not outside Chechnya. But buoyed by Russia’s new influence in the Middle East after last year’s intervention in Iran-allied Syria, he managed to bring some of the Muslim world’s most famous luminaries to a conference in late August in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

The conference, co-sponsored by an Islamic foundation in the United Arab Emirates, was attended by the imam of Al-Azhar Grand Mosque in Cairo, advisers to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, influential Yemeni cleric Habib Ali Jifri and the mufti of Syria, among others. Its mission was no less ambitious than determining who qualifies to be a Sunni Muslim. Read the rest of this entry »


Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’

by Scott Shaneaug,
New York Times
Aug. 25, 2016

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,” the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence. On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance. Read the rest of this entry »


The Crisis of Political Islam

Wall Street Journal
July 22, 2016

First Egypt and now Turkey show the perils of ideological religious parties (and strongman rule), but other Muslim countries are faring better with democracy

In 1999, a former mayor of Istanbul named Recep Tayyip Erdogan was imprisoned and banned from politics for life for reciting a poem. “Our minarets are our bayonets, our domes are our helmets, our mosques are our barracks,” the incriminating lines went. “My reference is Islam. If I am not able to speak of this, what is the use of living?”

The ban on Mr. Erdogan didn’t stick. Now Turkey’s president (and prime minister for 11 years before that), he is presiding over a nationwide purge of suspected enemies after the failure last week of a military coup against his government.

For decades, in much of the Middle East, Islamist politicians like Mr. Erdogan weren’t able to speak out — and, when they did, they frequently faced a prison cell or a hangman’s noose. From Algeria to Egypt to Turkey, the apparatus of the state repeatedly unleashed repression — of varying degrees of harshness — to marginalize political Islam, crushing democratic freedoms while offering the excuse of preserving secular values. The West, preferring the autocratic devils it knew over the Islamists it didn’t, often concurred.

In response, many of the Islamist movements that sprang up under the influence of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — groups that include Mr. Erdogan’s party — have gradually embraced the language of pluralism and the idea of democratic politics and elections. Crucially, however, these modern Islamists have often viewed democracy not as a value in itself but merely as a tactic to bring about a “true” Islamic order. To them, the voting booth was simply the most feasible way to dismantle the postcolonial, secular systems that, in the eyes of their followers, had failed to bring justice or development to ordinary Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »

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Political Islam will go the same way as nationalism and communism

Moncef Marzouki
Middle East Eye
15 June 2016

After the demise of nationalism, pan-Arabism and communism, Islamism is now facing its inevitable decline

Over the past half century, throughout which time I have been politically active, I have witnessed the rise and decline of three waves of political thought: nationalism, pan-Arabism and communism. Today, I am about to see the decline of a fourth wave, Islamism, after witnessing its launch in the early 1970s and reaching its peak in the late 1990s.

Some might argue the contrary, pointing to the increasing numbers of bearded men and veiled women visible in streets all over the world. They’d point to news reporting the actions of armed religious groups. Or direct my attention to the Islamic resistance Hamas, charities helping the poor, the uncorrupt ruling party in Turkey, or the Muslim Brotherhood’s standing up to the Egyptian dictatorship.

I am not disputing any of that. But many will remember that when we were young in the 1970s, the Soviet Union was seen as a power that will stay for the next thousand years. That communism will conquer the world and take hold of the future, leaving all other ideologies in the dustbin of history. Some intellectuals might remember the days when you couldn’t appear as politically intelligent or ethical if you weren’t Marxist or at least trying to be. Read the rest of this entry »


Rached Ghannouchi Q&A: Thoughts on democratic Islam

David Hearst – Peter Oborne
Middle East Eye
13 June 2016

MEE talks to Rached Ghannouchi after he presided over the separation of Ennahda’s religious and political activities

MEE: Ennahda has just taken a historic decision to separate itself from the mosque and to define itself purely as a political project. How do you define what you have done? Is it separation or specialisation?

RG: Its a continuation, not a rupture. Last week in the congress we adopted the idea of a civil party so that we can distinguish between what is sacred in Islam and what can be freely interpreted. The political field is not sacred nor immutable. It’s civic, human. It’s free for ijtihad or independent human reasoning. More than 90 percent of Islamic texts are open to interpretation and to nuance. We consider few texts as fixed or immutable. Many Muslims confuse the two kinds of texts and consider all texts as sacred and untouchable and only capable of bearing one meaning. The Islamic text concerning politics is open to interpretation, and this is the field in which we now act. We consider ourselves observant Muslims. We believe in Islam, that Islam came to Earth to liberate mankind, and to define the free person. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rise of Malaysia’s ‘racist’ strain of Islam

By Lim Teck Ghee
9 Jun 2016, AM 10:05 (Updated 9 Jun 2016, AM 10:08)

COMMENT A recent article comparing the treatment accorded by the government and the larger Islamic community to two recent Muslim visitors notes that the question as to why preacher Zakir Naik and scholar Abdullahi An-Na’im and their messages are resounding differently with the Malay Muslim community is a crucial one for Malaysians to ask.

The contrast in the themes articulated by these two visitors in their lectures and public engagements cannot be more different.

That of the scholar is a vision of a more humanistic and intellectually more rational and defensible Islam. The other by the preacher stems from a conservative and extremist position. Based on advocacy of Islam as a superior religion, Zakir offers simplistic but popular – with the Muslim masses – opinions on topics such as dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders (LGBT) people and other non-Islamic minorities, apostasy, the treatment of other faiths in Islamic states, the evils of secularism, etc.

Similar questions have been asked by others as to why Islam in this country has taken a hard line position and turned its back on its traditionally moderate roots and associated Hindu-Buddhist values and mores. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Islamism Is Dead!’ Long Live Muslim Democrats

New York Times
JUNE 2, 2016

TUNIS — “Islamism is dead!” announced Said Ferjani, a leader of the progressive wing of Ennahda, Tunisia’s main Islamist party, as we drank coffee in a hotel cafe here last month. Mr. Ferjani, a former hard-liner who once plotted a coup against the regime of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, was upbeat as he described the historic transition his party was about to make.

His wing had combined with the party leadership to push through a raft of resolutions that would not only rebrand Ennahda but also break with the tradition of political Islam that began with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in the late 1920s. According to Mr. Ferjani, Islamism had been useful under the Ben Ali dictatorship when “our identity and sense of purpose” was threatened by an authoritarian state. Now that Ennahda is engaged in open, legal party politics under a new Constitution, which it helped to write, and competes for national leadership, the Islamist label had become more a burden than a benefit.

The party’s co-founder and leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, was more circumspect when I interviewed him at his home. He shifted uneasily when I asked him whether he thought Islamism was dead.

“I wouldn’t put it that way,” he commented. But he did reject the label, saying, “We don’t see any reason to distinguish ourselves from other Muslims.” Both Mr. Ghannouchi and Mr. Ferjani prefer the term “Muslim Democrats” — which deliberately draws an analogy with the Christian Democratic parties of Western Europe — to describe their new, post-Islamist identity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why is Tunisia’s Ennahda ditching political Islam?

Larbi Sadiki
25th May 2016

Several months of internal debates have come to full fruition for the reformists within the party.

Tunis – Is Tunisia’s Ennahda party renouncing ‘Islamism’, its doctrinaire sine qua non and the basis of its foundational identity?

Over a three-day congress, the party’s first since 2012, members discussed the question through heated but pluralist debates. Ennahda, a movement that emerged in the late 1970s as a national political party with an Islamic frame of reference, is now committing to separate the religious (al-da’awi ) from the political (al-siyasi).

A vision that was upheld for more than three decades has ceded to a new brand of civic Islamism. That is, by analogy, a neo-Ennahda has not only edged closer to the notion of a civil state, but also to Turkey’s ruling AK Party and further from Egypt’s standard Muslim Brotherhood or “Ikhwani” model: The former operates politics with minimum ideology, the latter has historically harboured ambitions of Islamising polity. Read the rest of this entry »


Tunisian Islamists Al Nahda move to separate politics, religion

Gulf News
May 23, 2016

Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Al Nahda was able to survive in Tunisia despite initial conflict with secularists

Tunis: Tunisia’s Islamist party Al Nahda will separate its political and religious work, its chief said on Friday, moving away from its tradition of political Islam.

Al Nahda was the first Islamist party to come to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions and it took part in the first government coalition after the overthrow of Tunisia’s autocratic leader Zine Al Abedin Bin Ali.

It won the first post-uprising election by appealing to many Tunisians who saw its Islamist identity as an antidote to the years of corruption and repression under the Bin Ali government in one of the region’s most secular nations.

Free elections, a new constitution and a compromise politics between secular and Islamist parties have helped Tunisia avoid the turmoil seen in several other Arab nations.

“Al Nahda has changed from an ideological movement engaged in the struggle for identity, to a protest movement against the authoritarian regime, and now to a national democratic party,” Ghannouchi told supporters at a rally. “We must keep religion far from political struggles.” Read the rest of this entry »


Tunisia’s Nahda party ditches Islamist tag

Heba Saleh in Cairo
Financial Times
May 22, 2016

Tunisia’s Nahda party, a member of the governing coalition and the biggest force in parliament, has ditched its ‘Islamist’ label, saying it would end its religious activities and devote itself solely to politics.

The change, adopted in a vote by an overwhelming majority of delegates at a weekend party conference, is unprecedented in the region for an Islamist group. It also marks another milestone in the evolution of a once-repressed movement persecuted under the secular dictatorship of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali but which staged a strong come back after the 2011 revolution.

Under the leadership of its founder, Rachid Ghannouchi, Nahda has demonstrated political flexibility by striking a historic bargain with influential secular groups. This prevented the democratic transition from unraveling and helped make Tunisia the only success story among Arab countries which staged uprisings in 2011.

Addressing the Nahda conference, held in a stadium and attended by 1,300 delegates, Mr Ghannouchi said: “Nahda has evolved from defending identity to ensuring the democratic transition, and today moves on to focus on the economic transition.”

He also said that religion would be kept apart from “political struggles” and mosques should be completely neutral and play no role in politics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia: Clear and present danger from the Islamic State

James Chin
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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Umno’s regressive, harmful discourse

Netusha Naidu
The Malaysian Insider
17 December 2015

A lot has been said about the recent Umno general assembly, especially the president’s speech as presented by Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Instead of making the usual commentary of my own opinions about its contents, I felt that a discourse analysis would have been more appropriate to shed some light on the matters that drew my attention.

A discourse analysis is when we look at the usage of language by particular parties and how the messages are being conveyed to intended audiences. Most of time, such methods are used to display the variety of approaches that authors take to portray certain ideologies. As a result, we learn that some ideas become more dominant than others. All because of how it is being articulated and who is the proponent of those ideas.

What appeared most central of all my observations in the speech was the wordplay of Islamism that has ultimately dominated the entire text. This should come as no surprise to most of us. After all, religion has been something that we have been obsessing over lately. Not just within the country, but globally as well, in the light of the escalating violence of Isis, the preposterous call for banning Muslims by Donald Trump and a severe refugee crisis in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

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The evolution of political Islam in Malaysia

– Liew Chin Tong
The Malaysian Insider
26 September 2015

I would divide the evolution of political Islam in Malaysia into three stages: Islamic revival/resurgent which culminated in changes in Umno and PAS in 1982, the emergence of PAS’s progressive faction in 1998, and the “post-Islamism” of 2015.

I have always been reluctant to draw direct comparisons between international trends in the discourse of political Islam and Islamic politics at home, because to a large extent, politics is local.

However, international trends and labels are instructive as a window to observe domestic changes. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Amanah’ mendukung gagasan politik Islam

A Shukur Harun
The Malaysian Insider
15 September 2015

Pelancaran rasmi parti politik baharu bernuansa Islam – Parti Amanah Negara atau singkatnya Amanah – esok, 16 September, mempunyai makna penting dan tersendiri bukan saja dalam sejarah politik tanah air, tetapi juga apa yang dinamakan politik Islam.

Parti Amanah ini sedang dalam proses untuk didaftarkan.

Selepas menekuni dari dekat kemunculan parti baharu ini, saya menyimpulkan beberapa hal. Read the rest of this entry »

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4 soalan kepada Melayu DAP

– Sheikh Omar Ali
The Malaysian Insider
8 September 2015

Beberapa hari lalu, seorang senior saya semasa bergiat dalam Persatuan Mahasiswa Islam UM (PMIUM) dahulu mengutus mesej menerusi WhatsApp.

Beliau memohon agar saya menjawab beberapa persoalan yang diajukan rakan beliau berkaitan Melayu dalam DAP.

Saya terpanggil untuk kongsikan pandangan dan pendirian saya sebagai seorang Melayu dalam DAP kepada pembaca.

Soalan 1: Kenapa Melayu-Islam perlu bersama DAP?

Melayu Islam perlu bersama DAP kerana DAP merupakan sebuah parti politik yang sah seperti termaktub dalam perlembagaan dan pendaftaran pertubuhan. Menurut perlembagaan DAP, ia merupakan parti yang bukan berasaskan kaum atau agama. Tidak kira apa juga bangsa dan agama, boleh sertai DAP.

DAP berjuang atas dasar sosial demokrasi. Sosial bermaksud DAP ingin mengangkat martabat rakyat tanpa mengira latar belakang. Demokrasi bermaksud DAP akan bergerak mengikut lunas-lunas demokrasi untuk menjayakan agenda perjuangannya. Pendirian saya, demokrasi adalah selari dengan Islam dan disahkan Qardhawi dalam banyak tulisannya mutakhir ini. Dalam Islam, ia menepati konsep Masdaqul Ijtima’iyyah – people’s mandate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parti baharu dalam arus perdana

A Shukur Harun
The Malaysian Insider
1 September 2015

Penubuhan parti baharu di mana namanya akan diumumkan tidak lama lagi, iaitu anak kandung NGO Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB) secara rasmi diumumkan semalam, bertepatan pada Hari Kemerdekaan 31 Ogos, tentunya mempunyai makna yang penting.

Pertamanya kerana ia didahului perhimpunan Bersih 4 yang mendapat sambutan luar biasa rakyat pelbagai kaum dan agama. Walaupun semuanya ini secara kebetulan, tetapi parti baharu ini memang mendukung cita-cita Bersih yang mahukan pilihan raya bersih, memperjuangkan demokrasi dan kebebasan serta keadilan.

Kedua, kelahirannya pada Hari Kemerdekaan, seperti suatu isyarat parti baharu ini sewajarnya mendukung sepenuhnya aspirasi kemerdekaan tanah air dengan segala maknanya. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bangkit lawan penzalim adalah wira, kata Mufti Perlis

The Malaysian Insider
29 August 2015

Menjelang perhimpunan Bersih 4 hari ini, Mufti Perlis Datuk Dr Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin berkata, sesiapa yang bangkit menentang si zalim yang kuat ataupun pengkhianat yang berkuasa, maka dia pastinya seorang wira.

Baginya, jika hanya wanita yang ramai dalam perhimpunan ini, ia memalukan, katanya yang dipercayai merujuk kepada pengerusi Bersih 2.0, penganjur Bersih 4, yang merupakan seorang wanita iaitu Maria Chin Abdullah.

“Memalukan bagi sesebuah masyarakat ataupun pihak jika tiada wira lelaki yang muncul, sebaliknya hanya wanita yang berani tampil bersuara dan bertindak,” kata beliau yang lebih dikenali sebagai Dr Maza. Read the rest of this entry »

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New Pakatan Rakyat to be formed must not repeat the mistakes of Pakatan Rakyat which died an early death because of the lack of trustworthiness of one of its component parties

Recently, the PAS Deputy President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man called for the revival of a united opposition amid the twin scandals of 1MDB and RM2.6 billion deposited into Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s oersonal bank accounts in AmBank just before the 13th General Election.

He said this was the “crucial hour for all opposition parties to unite” and sit together to find common ground and minimise their differences.

I admit to great wariness of such a call after the early death of Pakatan Rakyat despite the high hopes and trust placed on it by Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region rooting for the first political change on the national landscape, vesting it with 52% of the popular vote in the 13th General Election. Read the rest of this entry »