Sunday, July 27, 2008

British regime's committee of "Islamic" scholars

An interesting piece by Soumaya Ghannoushi on the British regime's attempts to impose a pro-empire "Islam" on Muslims. However, it needs to be noted that the problem here is not just that these "scholars" are accepting government money, nor is the problem in Muslim countries merely that the "official ulema" are government employees.

The issue here is what kind of a government: the British regime is partners with the US in its war on Islam, the problem with most Muslim governments are that they are little more than colonial puppets of the US.

Similarly, the problem with a "Prince" or any other super wealthy individual, funding a so-called "Islamic studies" program at the pro-empire Harvard University, is his ideological background that leads to himself being called a "Prince" in the first place. And how such individuals amass such huge quantities of wealth, while most of the rest of planet is barely struggling to get by.

It is important to highlight these issues because, otherwise, we can end up not examining what the "sultan" is about - what are his/her political positions, and the kind of pro-empire "Islam" they are promoting.

The question to ask is: when all the noise has died down, what will this initiative have achieved? The answer is very little. The likelihood is that Blears' committee of theologians will fare no better than Ruth Kelly's Muslim Action Committee, Sufi Council, or any of the other government-created paper bodies. The terrorists and would-be terrorists won't look to the government's scholars for fatwas, and ordinary Muslims are unlikely to give them much attention. It may help Blears, who insists on poking her nose in all things Islamic, to learn this old Islamic piece of wisdom: "If you see the scholar frequent the sultan, then point your finger at him and beware."

Islam may not have an ecclesiastical institution that monopolises religious interpretation, but it sets rigorous requirements for the acquisition of the title of "alim" or "learned scholar". At the forefront of these is autonomy from the ruling authorities and their agendas. The scholar is the voice and conscience of believers, not rulers and ministers.

Blears would do well to ponder the fate of religious ministries, government fatwa councils and muftis in the Muslim world. In the eyes of Muslims, they are part of the state apparatus, and thus devoid of moral authority or religious legitimacy. Their imams and muftis are state officials in religious clothing. They receive their salaries, like their sermons and edicts, from the government. This, in a nutshell, is the crisis of the Islamic religious establishment.

Terrorism is, in many respects, an effect of this reality. With the erosion of the traditional learning institutions generated by the process of modernisation and the emergence of the official scholar, radical groups became their own source of interpretation. They scavenge scripture for texts that validate their political positions. If they are to be confronted, it is not through government-picked and sponsored figures, committees and councils. Only the model of the honest, proficient and independent scholar can challenge them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The British Regime's Official "Islam" in Egypt

The old time colonizers don't seem to realize that their time is over - here they are using a bunch of loyal subjects of the Queen, to spread a pro-empire version of "Islam." At least they are honest about it - they even call it "projecting British Islam."

It should be clear that what they are projecting, is not just about how Muslims live in Britain - at least two of the organizations listed are on the payroll of the British regime, and are representing the same regime that has been partners with US neo-cons. Readers of this blog will recognize the names of the organizations - esp. Quilliam and Radical Middle Way.

There is quite a bit of discussion and debate taking place on a variety of blogs with regards to this British attempted colonization, and distortion of Islam - one such blog is Traditional Islamism - check it out. And also check out the ongoing discussion on Sunni Forum - click here to read the 17 page (so far) thread. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the debates + more on the "Prince"

A few months back, the Sunni Forum board had a wide ranging debate on the issues surrounding the British government sponsored group Radical Middle Way. While somewhat acrimonious at times, I think the debate and discussion just about covered all of the various concerns - click here to read the thread.

My own view is that no Islamic scholar, nor any Islamic group should be taking funds from a government that has been partners with the US in its war on Islam. And especially not to promote any specific form or school of Islam.

As I have implied earlier, with regards to Farid Esack, nor should Islamic scholars be part of any project, or academic program that has been primarily (maybe even 100%) funded by someone like "Prince" Al-Waleed Bin Talal. This "Prince" funds an "Islamic Studies" programs at Harvard - to promote a form of, no doubt, empire friendly Islam. And then also gives money to support Bush senior, and praises and partners with the likes of Rupert Murdoch (owner of the anti-Muslim, neo-con supporting, ultra right wing FOX news).

This is Al-Waleed's palace:

Al-Waleed's $130 million palace in Riyadh includes a 75-foot-high foyer is framed by dual winding staircases. In all, there are 317 rooms, covering 400,000 square feet. The palace has 520 TVs, 400 phones, and eight elevators. And of course swimming pools (indoor and out), a screening room, a bowling alley, tennis courts (indoor and out), and an Astroturf soccer field (that's outdoors). The staff, all 180 of them, carry walkie-talkies.

I can understand that there are scholars of Islam - even Muslim scholars of Islam - who are primarily academics. However, the task, and role of an Islamic scholar is different than that of a western university professor who is an academic. An Islamic scholar has to not only be a scholar of Islam, but also give primacy to living, and making appropriate choices, in accordance with the Qur'an and Sunna. This role does not change whether one is living in the US, England, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, or Iceland.

Lets be clear, we are talking about the knowledge of Islam here, Allah's revealed religion. We are not playing games here, scholars have a greater responsibility to take seriously the Qur'an and Sunna, and such issues as sources of funding, contradictory agendas, and the role of the present day war on Islam. This war not only includes the obvious and severe violence against Muslims, but also attempts to ideologically corrupt how Islam is presented (and this form of corruption can be more subtle than the obvious neo-con anti-Islam hate mongering).

I would hope that most, if not all, of our Islamic scholars are savvy enough to not get tempted to join this project at Harvard, and be more vigilant with regards to sources of funding, and institutional pro-empire agendas.

click on image below to get a larger/clearer view: