Category Archives: Islam

The Rohingya Tragedy

We fully agree with Amal de Chickera’s analysis that Suu Kyi ‘is a failed leader who has taken a calculated and cynical decision to stand with the oppressors’ in persecuting the Rohingya.

The minority Muslim population of Myanmar, i.e. the Rohingya who were made stateless by the dreaded Burma Citizenship Law 1982, can trace their history to the eighth century but are not recognised as one of the national races of Myanmar unless they can show “conclusive evidence” of their lineage or history of residence. Consequently, shunned by mainstream society, they are ineligible for any class of citizenship. Eric Fripp explains: “To be stateless in general terms is to be without attachment to a State as a national.” Since they are “resident foreigners”, or “illegal Bengali immigrants”, the Rohingya cannot hold public office, study or travel freely. Over the past three weeks, more than 400,000 Rohingya refugees have poured into Bangladesh to escape Rakhine State’s killing fields where the Buddhist majority has been indiscriminately attacking helpless civilians whose terrified faces tell us everything. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has called these shocking events a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Reports suggest that with Suu Kyi’s help, the Myanmar military uses schools to brainwash Buddhists to “hate Muslims”.

Satellite imagery obtained by Amnesty International shows widespread torching of hundreds of Rohingya villages and the application of scorched-earth tactics by the Myanmar military. The UN secretary general António Guterres has described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe” and is demanding “an effective action plan” to ease the suffering of Rohingya refugees. Guterres is calling for an immediate end to the “tragedy”. But the Myanmar authorities are mining the border to prevent the Rohingya from returning home or even escaping to Bangladesh in the first place. Notably, Guterres used his opening speech during the recent UN general assembly session to highlight the plight of the Rohingya. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Brexit, Discussion, Ethnic cleansing, Human Rights, India, Islam, Islamophobia, Karachi, Myanmar, NLD, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Refugees, Rohingya, Statelessness, Syria

Who Am I: Understanding Pakistan’s Political Dynamics?

Politics in Pakistan is marked not simply by its religion, but rather its fragmented identity and a strong military, which has grown out of Pakistan’s need to secure itself.

Seventy years later we are still struggling to answer the question, who is Pakistan? In a sense, Pakistan is a paradox, cut between its religious identity and its need to formulate a state. Unlike India, it did not declare itself as a secular democracy but at the same time, it also failed to define its religious identity. Nationalism and Islam have often found themselves in opposition in the Pakistani state, creating a grave identity crisis. Even Jinnah was ambivalent about the role Islam should play in defining Pakistan’s identity; sometimes he claimed Pakistan should be based on the ‘principles of Islam,’ while on another occasion he portrayed Pakistan to be a secular state, ‘you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.’ This meant that from its very existence Pakistan faced an ‘ontological insecurity’ being unable to create a stable identity for itself. This conflicted identity and highlighted insecurity then impregnated Pakistani politics to define its domestic and foreign policies.

While Islam has not been the driver of shaping politics in Pakistan, those in power have alluded to religion in order to wield their political interests. In part, it was believed religion would override all cultural differences in Pakistan. However, it became very apparent that the limited notion of Islam would come into conflict with the other forms of identity people attached themselves with. If Pakistan was to distinguish itself as a democratic state, it would diminish the role Islam would play as an organising factor to mobilise political action. While there was no definitive made as to what Islam’s role would be, the political representation of cultural identities was suppressed. Therein lay the roots of Pakistan’s problems; its failure to accommodate ethnic diversity and provisional autonomy, which has led to a mobilisation of ethnic nationalism. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

‘To describe the Rubaiyat’s quatrains as the epigrams of an epicurean is to misunderstand Khayyam’ explains Dr Reeza Hameed.

As rendered by Fitzgerald, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has remained an enduring favourite among poetry lovers all over the world. Khayyam is a poet for all seasons. Khayyam was undoubtedly one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers to come out of the Islamic world of the middle ages. He was a contemporary of Ali ibn Sina, known to the West as Avicenna. Khayyam was a polymath in an era which produced polymaths by the dozens, many of whom are known to the West only by their Latinised names, but Khayyam’s name survives in the Arabic original. Khayyam had mastered many disciplines. In addition to mathematics and astronomy, he was fluent in philosophy, medicine, geography, physics, and music. Ibn Sina taught him philosophy for many years. He also learnt medicine and physics from that great man. Another contemporary was Al-Zamakshari, well-known for his commentary of the Quran. Since Khayyam was one of the greatest astronomers of the Middle Ages, in recognition of his contributions a crater on the Moon was named after him. 

In mathematics, he virtually invented the field of geometric algebra. His treatise on Algebra was used in Europe as a standard text even as late as the nineteenth century. He was not known for his poetry, until he was reborn as a poet in the second half of the nineteenth century in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of his Rubaiyat, which catapulted him to poetic stardom. Had it not been for Fitzgerald, Khayyam’s fame might have rested on his contributions to astronomy, mathematics or the development of the Jalali calendar to replace the Julian calendar. He alludes to his involvement in the calendar in one of his verses.

 Ah, by my Computations, People say,
Reduce the Year to better reckoning?

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Filed under Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Iran, Islam, The Middle East

M.A. Shiwani: A New Weapon to Fight the War on Terror

The Council of American-Islamic Relations has reported that Islamophobic abuse in the US, or hate crimes against Muslims, have risen by 91 percent in the first quarter of 2017 as compared to the same time last year.

It is a dark truth that since the War on Terror made its debut in Operation Enduring Freedom, terrorism in the world has only increased. Localized, reactionary militias have now evolved into transnational entities that wish to subjugate the world under their repressive regimes and the fact that no country in the world is now immune to terrorism is testament to the rapid, global diffusion of radical ideologies. A simple factual analysis will show you that interventions on the basis of the War on Terror — military combating an ideology, has only added fuel to the fire of radical Islam. Fighting terrorism with guns is no longer a viable option. Observably the recent, ‘liberation’ of Mosul, Iraq is not cause for celebration. The new weapon that needs to be used for fighting terrorism is social reform. Academics across the world have stressed that military intervention has only strengthened terrorist organizations and that curtailing the effects of terrorism, without addressing its causes, will result in failure. Perhaps nothing I write will be different from what has already been written.

I do, however, hope to provide a broader picture to show that the future trajectory of terrorism and radicalization can only be curtailed by curtailing the recruitment mechanisms of terrorist entities. The New York Times recently published an article entitled Migrant Maids and Nannies for Jihad that reports on how social media is being used to radicalize maids working in Indonesia and Hong Kong. Interviews with several maids that ended up joining networks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) revealed a consistent cycle that resulted in radicalization: dislocation from home and the resultant isolation of Muslims that are not welcome in the societies that they work in causes a “spiritual dryness” within them. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Syria, United States

Muslim Law: The Need For Reform

‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.

There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Sri Lanka, The Middle East, Women

Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking: A Talk by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister

‘The concept of the nation state is in turmoil’ … ‘Iran and Pakistan can reshape the region’ – Watch Video

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath transformed Iran from a “rogue” state once part of the so-called “Axis of Evil” to one which is now vastly influential in the volatile affairs of the region. The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and last summer’s JCPOA have meant that the once menacing image of frowning mullahs burning American, British and Israeli flags has now been replaced by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s famous “smile diplomacy”. The upshot is that the Iranians are no longer considered to be the pariahs of the international community that they once used to be. These days everyone is looking for economic opportunities in Iran and western businesses and banks are keen to interact with its vast markets which were disconnected from the mainstream world economy because of sanctions subsequent to the 1979 Revolution.

During his talk entitled Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 12 August 2016, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour said that Iran has more than a dozen neighbours but he remained unequivocal in his stance that Pakistan was a special country in the eyes of the Iranians. Dr Sajjadpour argued that Pakistan and Iran’s destinies are inextricably linked and that the two large neighbouring countries need to work together to combat security problems in order to neutralise the threat posed by terrorism. Detailed media coverage of our event with the Iranian dignitary can found below (see our earlier posts on Iran here and here and see further coverage here. Continue reading

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Filed under CPEC, Cyber Security, Discussion, Europe, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Sanctions, Syria, The Middle East

Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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