i must start by declaring an interest here, not only as someone who supports a fair and equitable end to the arab-israeli conflict in which israel’s future is secured and a wider lasting peace in the middle east for all its peoples, but also as someone many of whose ancestors came from mosul and kirkuk in kurdistan. i have met many talented kurds and they have invariably been the sort of people who i could get along with and do business with; reasonable, rational and sensitive to the realities of history and politics.
for all these reasons, the issue of kurdistan has been close to my heart for a number of years; it felt very much to me as if it was a pipe-dream, given the geopolitical status quo. the basics are this:
Amira Nowaira has a wonderful article on the long and vibrant intellectual tradition of dissidence and freethinking in the Islamic world which goes back to the Middle Ages but which has, tragically, all but disappeared. If there is still any doubt about the breadth of Islamic intellectual diversity during its golden age, Postmodernists and moral relativists could do worse than to compare the ideas propagated by enlightened thinkers such as the 10th century philosopher and scientist Abu Bakr al-Razi and compare him with what passes for religious scholarship in the Islamic world (or indeed, any world) in these dark, ignorant times.
Most prominent among those scholars was Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-925 CE) who believed in the supreme importance of reason. He argued that the mind had an innate capacity to distinguish between good and evil, and between what was useful and what was harmful. According to him, the mind did not need any guidance from outside it, and for this reason the presence of prophets was redundant and superfluous.
Also posted in Obscurantism
From Annaqed (“the critic”) comes this excellent analysis of the roots of Islamic supremacism, by Louise Palme. Here is an excerpt but I urge you to read this superb piece in its entirety.
Cracks in the Façade
While maintaining the image of religious superiority was easy when there was little contact between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, advances in transportation and communication have increased this contact exponentially. Here are some of the cracks in the façade of Islamic superiority:
Golden Age of Islam – During the first five hundred years of Islam, the Islamic world made remarkable accomplishments in science, medicine, and architecture, due in part to their affluence as a result of “booty” and their conquest of highly educated populations. These accomplishments later stimulated the European Renaissance. But in the 20th and 21st Centuries, the contribution of the Islamic countries in these fields has been meager. Out of the 797 Nobel Prizes awarded to individuals for accomplishments in science and other fields since 1901, Muslims can boast only 8, or one percent from a population that comprises 20% of the world’s population. A recent United Nations Human Development report found that the countries in the Middle East only surpass Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of education and other human development measures.
This is a cross-post from Faith Matters website
Faith Matters is launching its paper that offers a brief insight into the Secular reforms of the Ottoman Empire, in order to analyse and debunk claims by extreme groups like Al Qaeda of it being an Islamic Caliphate, strictly governed by Shariah Law. The Ottoman Empire is often presented, by such groups as a model political system upon which to re-build a global Caliphate. Osama bin Laden marked the decline of the Ottoman Empire as the fall of Islam – that the Islamic world “has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years” and that “the righteous Khilafah will return with the permission of Allah”. Through the implementation of an Islamic legal and political system, extreme groups who mis-use the Islamic faith call for the rejection of liberal values and the current systems in place, which do not fundamentally clash with Islam.
Muslims have a long and distinguished record of service in the British armed forces.
But this record has been almost completely obliterated in recent years by the competing narratives of the Far Right and of hardline Islamists. Both blocs, for their own ideological reasons, seem to assert that one cannot be both a loyal Briton and a good Muslim at the same time.
In Ties that Bind former Islamist Shiraz Maher recaptures this lost history of Muslim service to the Crown. Maher shows that this collective past constitutes the basis of a new shared future – which can endure in no less testing circumstances. It also forms the basis for enhanced recruitment of Muslims to the armed forces, without political preconditions attached.
Henry Kissinger has a new book out. It has got a favourable review in the New York Times, who gush all over it:
It’s been four decades since President Richard M. Nixon sent Henry A. Kissinger to Beijing to re-establish contact with China, an ancient civilization with which the United States, at that point, had had no high-level diplomatic contact for more than two decades. Since then the cold war has ended; the Soviet Union (a threat to both China and the United States and a spur to Sino-American cooperation) has come unwound; and economic reform in China has transformed a poverty-ridden, poorly educated nation into a great power that is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the globalized world.
Also posted in War Crimes
This is a cross-post by Nayanika Mookherjee from CiF
Ian Jack, writing on the book Dead Reckoning by the Indian author Sarmila Bose, claimed that “a truth about the Bangladesh
war is that remarkably few scholars and historians have given it thorough, independent scrutiny” (It’s not the arithmetic of genocide that’s important. It’s that we pay attention
, 21 May). But to take Bose’s word for it would be an unfortunate misreading.
The Bangladesh liberation war – the nine-month struggle in 1971 whereby East Pakistan broke away and became an independent nation – remains relatively unknown in the west. I am a social anthropologist who has undertaken a decade-long research on the memories of wartime rape from the Bangladesh war. I came into contact with contemporary post-nationalist readings which address the role of Bengali Muslims in the killing of Bihari/non-Bengali collaborators and communities. Yet none of these Bangladeshi works are referenced in Bose’s book, which she claims to be the “first critical, neutral” study.
Also posted in War Crimes
In the late 12th century, the Arab Islamic world started to stagnate and in the course of the next half a millennium, regressed in every possible front, from the intellectual to the spiritual. Before long it was playing catch-up to the rest of the world where it once led the way in almost every discipline. What caused the Islamic world to stagnate? Is Islam incompatible with modernity? Is Islam to blame or is it Muslims who are congenitally backward?
A new book, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East, by Timur Kuran, a Duke University economic historian, attempts to answer these questions and says that it is partly because of a series of taking the wrong forks in the road and partly because Islam is a victim of its own inbuilt egalitarianism. The New York Times has a review.
This is a cross-post of an article by Ismael Bey from Muslims Debate
The Islamic Republic of Iran today is governed by a rigid majlis of mullahs who spend hours debating such engrossing topics as whether it is halal for women to wear blue jeans, or if dogs desecrate a Muslim’s household. They break for prayer, debate, then break for lunch and tea, then engage in more debate. They go home, pray, eat dinner “see you tomorrow, inshallah”, and go to bed. Then, upon the day’s dawn, after morning prayer, the process continues. Judged by such standards set forth by the ignorant meeting of such ignorant minds, one can barely see the connection Persian intellectual culture and tradition has played in the development of Islamic thought and spirituality. It is difficult to believe that it was the Persian mind that questioned and demanded to question, through discourse and critical thinking, that gave birth to what the world would come to know as Islamic civilization. The same civilization that recorded and translated the works and knowledge of the ancients was ruled by an Arab dynasty that was to become great by the work of it’s Persian intellectual subjects.
Abbas Milani writes in The New Republic, comparing the Egyptian revolution in 2011 to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and offers a word of warning:
For Egyptians, the history of the Iranian Revolution should serve as a warning. In 1978, Ayatollah Khomeini hid his true intentions—namely the creation of a despotic rule of the clerics—behind the mantle of democracy. More than once he promised that not a single cleric would hold a position of power in the future government. But once in power, he created the current clerical despotism. And when, in June 2009, three million people took to the streets of Tehran to protest decades of oppression, they were brutally suppressed.
Also posted in Democracy, Islamism