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The problem of moderation in Islam.

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    The problem of moderation in Islam.

    Khaled Ahmend in his analysis starts the article by "Islam is intrinsically a moderate religion.." and then goes on to list the actions of the passionately religious unrelentingly. Have the extreme view holders have really been as harsh as Khaled lists? I did not like the over all effect of this article. What other take can one give it?
    The link is to Khaled Ahmed's Analysis in The friday times of July 19-25 issue.

    Islam is intrinsically a moderate religion, as mandated by the Holy Quran. Yet, today the one problem faced by Islam is the extremism of its advocates. Muslim scholars worried by this extremism often point to the express Quranic edict enjoining the ‘middle path’. Western critics of Islamic extremism, sometimes described as ‘fundamentalism’, know that Islam is a moderate faith and keep pointing to the ‘angry’ interpretations of it by the ulema and their followers. The most glaring example of this extremism is the institutionalised system of punishments in some of the Islamic states. Since these ‘punishments’ are applied in different ways in these days, questions about their authenticity have also arisen. For example, beheading in Saudi Arabia, letting a stone wall fall on the convicts in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and the law about the size of stones in rijm in Iran. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, the factor of pressure applied on the courts to award vengeful sentences, has also come to the fore under the Blasphemy Law. Is the Islamic system being marred by extremism too?

    Islamic state and extremism: Two Urdu newspapers, Nawa-e-Waqt and Khabrain, reported three blasphemy cases against Christians on 30 June 2002. Kenneth Anwar, a Christian former deputy director of fisheries department, confessed to having insulted the Holy Prophet PUBH in the sessions court of Judge Sadaqatullah Khan. This meant that the blasphemer would get the minimum punishment of death under law. Kingri Masih converted to Islam in 1998, but in 2000 a case was registered against him for reconverting to Christianity and thereby insulting the Holy Prophet PBUH. Sessions judge Faisalabad, Chaudhry Muhammad Rafeeq, sentenced him to death for blasphemy. There is no law in Pakistan awarding death for converting. A Lahore sessions judge Sardar Ahmad Naeem began hearing the case of blasphemy against Christian Murshid Masih. Proof against him was presented to the court about his method of insulting the Prophet PBUH. The Blasphemy Law in Pakistan has aroused international concern. Efforts by the various governments to remove some of the flaws in the wording of the law have been thwarted by the clergy and certain sections of society, including the military rank and file. A serving judge of the Lahore High Court expressed the extremist point of view when he recommended that people kill the blasphemer instead of reporting him to the police. A blasphemy convict under the law was recently killed in a Lahore jail while awaiting a hearing in the appellate court.

    Muslim Arab scholar Azza M. Karam in her book Women, Islamisms, and the State, discusses the practice of infibulation or female circumcision in Northern Africa in general and Egypt in particular and finds that the institutions of Islamic law allow the custom nowhere mentioned in the Quran. All Islamists in Egypt accept the practice as a permitted custom in Islam. She interviewed the leading Islamic scholars in Egypt and failed to extract a negation of infibulation from them. The leading cleric actually offered this explanation: the cut has to be only light, but in case the clitoris is overgrown and touches the clothes, thereby exciting prurience in the woman, it must be excised to prevent the woman from falling on men and spoiling their piety through temptation! Once upon a time the most enlightened and moderate view of Islam was expressed by the Al-Azhar University of Egypt. It is no longer a moderate institution. Its subordinate department Islamic Research Council (IRC) bans publications it considers blasphemous. It works under Law 102 of 1985, which marks a new period of extremism in the country. Founded by the Ismaili rulers in 969 AD, Al-Azhar passed through the various colonial periods in Egypt’s life. Towards the end of the 19th century, the great liberal Muhammad Abduh led a movement of reform at Al-Azhar, somewhat like the one begun at Aligarh by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. But those days are gone forever.

    The extremism of Al-Azhar: In 1926, Al-Azhar issued its first hardline edict, against Taha Hussain for writing Fi l-Shir al-Jahili (On pre-Islamic Poetry) claiming that some pre-Islamic poetry had been fabricated in the Islamic period. Although he repented, prime minister Ismail Sidki dismissed him from service, somewhat like the dismissal of the Islamic scholar Fazlur Rehman in Pakistan in the Ayub Era. In 1959, under the influence of Al-Azhar, Naguib Mahfouz’s Awlad Haratin (Children of Gabalwi) was attacked by the ulema. The courts upheld the condemnation and banned the book. (The Nobel Laureate was stabbed in the stomach by an Islamist youth.) In 1981, IRC asked the government to ban Louis Awad’s book Muqadama fi Fiqh al Lugha al Arabiyya in which he had tried to prove that some Arabic words were based on the language of Ancient Egypt. He lost the case at the courts. Alla Hamid was sentenced to 8 years in 1991 for writing his novel A Distance in a Man’s Mind. In 1992, Al-Azhar called for a blasphemy case against Judge Said al-Ashmavi after banning several of his books on Islamic jurisprudence. Al-Azhar precludes recourse to the court of law sometimes by making a telephone call to the publisher of a book, who then voluntarily withdraws the offending book.

    In 1992, professor Dr Farag Foda was gunned down in front of his house after an Al-Azhar verdict said that ‘whatever he does is against Islam’. When his Gama Islamiyya killers were asked in court why they killed him, they said, ‘Al-Azhar issued the death sentence and we carried out the execution’. In 1993, an Islamic preacher issued a fatwa stipulating that any Muslim who argued for the suspension of the Shariah should be considered murtad (apostate) and could be killed with impunity. Al-Azhar had gained its legal status of a censor in 1985. Its hardline sheikh or rector Gad al-Haq got the Council of State to give him a more extended authority of censorship with the capacity to impose his verdicts on the Ministry of Culture. He is the final arbiter of the IRC. In 1994, author Qemni was punished for tracing the account of the creation of Eve in Torah to a Sumerian myth. The IRC took on its board the son of an extremist cleric and routinely overruled the Art Censor authority already in place. Al-Azhar can influence decisions outside Egypt. In 1976, it attacked the Sudanese moderate leader Mahmoud Muhammad Taha who had criticised General Numeiri’s persecution of the Christians in the south of Sudan. Taha was tried and executed as apostate in 1985 by General Numeiri. Like Allama Iqbal, Taha was in favour of rationalising Islamic punishment in the light of modern times. The extremism of Al-Azhar spread to Cairo University too where in 1994 scholar Abu Zayd was declared apostate for writing his book on the Holy Quran, calling it part eternal, part historical. His wife was ordered to leave him or face charges of fornication as their marriage stood annulled. Islamic organisation Jehad declared that it would kill him, after which the couple fled the country.

    Islamic law and its extremist interpretation: In 1966, the leading Saudi cleric Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn al-Baz declared that it was false to say that the earth moved around a fixed sun and handed down the fatwa that any Muslim not believing in a fixed earth was ‘guilty of falsehood against Allah, His Prophet and the Quran’. King Faisal tried to confiscate al-Baz’s book but many of its copies reached the outside world. As recounted in Censorship in Islamic Societies by Trevor Mostyn, in 1999, in the newly Islamised state of Zamfara in Nigeria, a petty thief was caught by a frenzied mob. His right hand was chopped off with a large knife. A representative of the state said: ‘We are following the Saudi model. Go to Saudi Arabia. People just leave their houses open when they go to pray. They do not live fear of robbers. But shariah is not limited to the laws. It is a comprehensive way of life; what you do from the moment when you wake up. When you go to the toilet you walk in with your left leg first and leave with your right leg first. That is Shariah’.

    In Iran, between March 1993 and March 1984, 1700 Iranians had their hands cut and at least 2000 were executed under the Qisas system on charges including ‘reading heretical books’, ‘insulting the leader’ and ‘thinking evil thoughts’. In 1998, six people were stoned to death under the Qisas Law whose Article 119 says: ‘In the punishment of stoning to death, the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that could not be defined as stones’. The law has struck down many publications in Iran including one, in 1999, edited by former president Rafsanjani’s daughter. Cartoonists have come under fire and punished for ‘implying’ disrespect. In Afghanistan, citizens have been punished for not keeping a beard, for wearing shorts, flying kites and staging cock-fights. The most glaring act of extremism of the Taliban was the destruction of the Bamyan Buddha, which shocked even the orthodox circles in the Islamic world. In Kuwait, the works of the mystical poet Rumi and the late Pakistani scholar Ghulam Ahmad Parwez have been banned. (The works of the last-named were banned in the Frontier Province of Pakistan too but are available discreetly in Lahore.) In Algeria and Egypt, Islamists of Takfir wal-Hijra under the influence of Syed Qutb have been killing innocent Muslims supposedly living in jahiliyya. In Algeria, extremist FIS and GIA have carried out similar executions.

    Extremism is appearing in the Islamic world through state institutions. In Pakistan, modern banking system has been deemed un-Islamic. The act is extreme because no other Islamic state has attempted it. State institutions dedicated to interpreting Islam daily pronounce reforms that simply cannot be implemented. Some of the laws already in force have been set aside because social conditions do not allow their execution. People have been sentenced to stoning to death and cutting of hands, but they have been saved by the higher courts. Blasphemy law victims, rotting in jails, have yet to be killed by the government. Religious circles clamour for executions and their extremist factions kill the victims in jails because convictions are expected to be set aside on appeal. Islamic moderates are under threat. Official Islam too does not support them, just as Imam Khomeini rejected the moderate voice of Ayatollah Shariatmadari in Iran where the people actually vote for a moderate leadership these days.

    I get enraged when I read articles like this -- rage at the extremism described, not the journalist.

    This is pathetic. I feel so helpless, because if you try to fight against these mentally challenged extremists, er facists, you get killed for it.
    I believe in dragons, good men, and other fantasy creatures.


      There is no ruling of Islam so how ones can talk about legislation of certain lands and link it to Islam makes no sense to me. To say that Islam rules one way or another it needs to be in ruling.
      But the West will point to aspects of culture and say it is Islam whether it be Forced marriage, caste killings etc.
      They will do anything to say that Islam is backward when it is infact people who misinterpret Islam who are backward.


        Originally posted by OldLahori:
        .....In Pakistan, modern banking system has been deemed un-Islamic. The act is extreme because no other Islamic state has attempted it. State institutions dedicated to interpreting Islam daily pronounce reforms that simply cannot be implemented. ....
        as stupid as one can get , if something is "hard to implement" should never be "questioned", "investigated", "do research" ??? if no other country has taken this issue means no one should bother about it? someone has to cast the first stone!

        along the same lines, "Democracy" is almost impossible in Pakistan why beat the drum to implement "Democracy"?

        May Allah SWT guide us all towards right and help us follow the right