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Egypt is Not Special

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Over the past two and a half years, Egyptians have become fairly desensitized to violence on the streets of their capital. Prior to 2011, virtually any crime beyond petty theft – let alone violent flare ups in public squares or massive processions against the authorities du jour – grabbed the attention of the Egyptian populace; it was simply outside the norm. Today, lawlessness is rampant, a day without a “million man” protest is unusual, and “molotov” and “birdshot” are as ever present in the Egyptian lexicon as “fuul” and “ta3miyya.”

Yet, even given this more jaded context, the events of the past few days were utterly shocking.

Rightful Indignation

The latest official figures, aggregated from Ministry of Health and newspaper sources, indicate nearly 1,300 people killed from August 14 – August 16 — the vast majority of whom were peaceful protesters in Cairo, Alexandria and other governorates.

1,300 people. Dead.

To put that in context, the death toll throughout the vaunted – and violent – eighteen days of the January 25 uprising didn’t pass 850. The numbers are, as one can imagine, historic. As The Atlantic notes, August 14, 2013 was “one of the deadliest single-day instances of police-on-protester violence since Tiananmen Square.”

There are, naturally, many who are rightly outraged by the crackdowns on anti-military protesters, particularly with regard to the Raba’a mosque sit-in. Governments around the globe condemned the excessive use of force, a sentiment echoed by human rights organizations and the United Nations.

This – let’s just call it what it is – massacre has also triggered a crisis of conscience among at least two high profile figures that have adamantly supported the army’s actions since the July 3 coup. On Wednesday, Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as interim vice president, saying that he “cannot bear responsibility for one drop of blood,” while word came on Friday that National Salvation Front spokesman, Khaled Dawoud, resigned in response to his organization’s failure to condemn the army’s violence. Dawoud later clarified that the turning point for him came when he saw the scores of dead bodies at the Al Iman mosque, where victims of the Raba’a crackdown were sent when fires engulfed the makeshift hospitals and morgues.

One wonders, however, what exactly ElBaradei and Dawoud expected when they backed the military overthrow of a democratically elected president.

Blind Jingoism

While there are many individuals, organizations and countries that have taken a principled stand against the security forces’ brazen disregard for innocent lives, these condemnations are largely – and sadly – falling on deaf ears in Egypt.

This is especially the case with the junta led government. Far from realizing the devastation their actions have wrought, officials have done away with any pretense of humanity and given security forces the green light to use live ammunition at will. This declaration has, of course, been roundly cheered throughout Egyptian media (which has served as a state mouthpiece since the coup) to the extent that each channel now displays banners (alternatively in English and Arabic) declaring variations of “Egypt Fights Terrorism.”

Needless to say, the constant drumbeat of this Orwellian message has permeated deep into Egyptian society. It’s likely that most Egyptians fully support the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, their supporters, and anyone else who is against the current military-led regime. In fact, a sizable percentage of the population seems to want security forces to take an even harsher stance against the “terrorists.” As disheartening as this circumstance is, the fact that generally respectable academics are whitewashing the military’s actions while regional powers outright support the brutal assault on protesters makes it likely that more egregious crimes against humanity are yet to come.

One Foot Over the Brink

A sort of “exceptionalism” has taken hold of Egyptians recently. It’s led them to believe that they can, for example, escape the laws of political science when it comes to the dismal repercussions of military coups. This “too big to fail” mentality has also led Egyptians to believe they are immune from the tumult that has engulfed other countries in the region.

Indeed, not long ago, if you mentioned “Egypt” and “civil war” in the same breath, you were assumed an alarmist with a penchant for sensationalism. Today, human rights experts proclaim that Egypt looks “depressingly like Iraq” while one of the premiere bloggers in Cairo compares the Egyptian army’s strategy towards the Brotherhood to Bashar Al-Assad’s approach to protesters early on in the Syria conflict.

So, to put it bluntly: Egypt is not special.

The sooner that all parties realize that the country doesn’t have some magical immunity from catastrophe, the sooner we can perhaps pull back from a descent that could cripple the state and the region for a generation or more.

Until then, expect nothing but sloganeering and higher body counts.

Youssef is from Brooklyn, New York by way of Alexandria, Egypt. Currently, he is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California studying Political Science and International Relations. A student of Islam, history, and politics, his recent extended stay in Cairo placed him squarely at the nexus of these disciplines. Follow him on Twitter (@TheAlexandrian) as he tries to make sense of all that's happening in Tahrir and beyond.

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Avatar

    yaseen

    August 17, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    this is truly sad to see. it hurts to see so many bodies lined up and casually reported on the news in a tone and manner that is as if to say “see, look at those crazy Moozlums, they’ll eat each other”. I intend to become more versed on the inner-workings of each and every country that claims to be a Muslim country, because I am tired of hearing about how “Muslim countries are crazy” and how “things like that always happen in that part of the world” I am waiting for the day that a predominantly Muslim country adopts, properly practices, and properly implements Islam without omitting some key aspects while maintaining the aspects that they find favorable. I do not feel that this will happen until that country is not in a more wealthy nation’s pocket.

    Being a Muslim in the military I hear the worst stories, comments, and discrimination about Muslims and Islam in general from the most ignorant of people. I know that on a micro level the best way to combat their ignorance is to not only be the best Muslim I could be but to do so unapologetically and not be sheepish about being a Muslim. On a macro level, I know it is as Allah states in the Quran that our condition will not change until we change that which is in ourselves.

    Lastly, as a revert, I must say that it makes you an idealist in that you learn about the deen and you believe that anyone who has this kind of belief system and way of life known as al-islam, it would be impossible to be morally bankrupt, depraved, and spiritually destitute. So when I see what goes on in the world I have a lot of question and I do not understand how people turn away from something that put life in me and saved me from myself. I am far from an ideal Muslim but I can say that, I was dead inside. The miracle that we as Muslims have to understand is that, prophets (peace be upon them all) have all been attributed miracles by the permission of Allah, but the distinct miracle that Allah allowed Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) to perform was to give life to the spiritually dead. To change the hearts by speaking God’s words are something that no one else did. If we as Muslims remember that, there would not be chaos in these countries.

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 17, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      Salam Yaseen,

      Thanks for the comment. You have quite a unique perspective, given your circumstance. Do consider putting your tale to print and allowing us to publish it. I’m sure you have a lot of insights our readers would be interested in hearing.

      • Avatar

        yaseen

        August 19, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        Salaam Youssef,
        May the peace and blessings of the Ruler of All the Worlds be upon you, your family, colleagues at this website, visitors of this website, and this entire ummah. I have to say that I am flattered you even took the time to respond to me and that you would want to hear more from me in regards to the path Allah placed me on that I pray will ultimately lead to Him and His favor. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I have anything too interesting to say that would garner much attention from your readers. Neither do I have any credentials outside of my sincerity that validate my thoughts, words, or opinion. Nevertheless, for the sake of sharing I can tell you a little about myself if you feel it would be of benefit.

        Salaams

    • Avatar

      Saeed Khan

      August 19, 2013 at 3:55 AM

      “I am waiting for the day that a predominantly Muslim country adopts, properly practices, and properly implements Islam without omitting some key aspects while maintaining the aspects that they find favorable. I do not feel that this will happen until that country is not in a more wealthy nation’s pocket.”

      I believe you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. It is natural for Muslims to want to live under the rule of Islam but over the decades in many minds this idea has become vague. What does it mean to live under Islam? How do we achieve this? Is it by adopting democracy and through the democratic process enabling gradual change? Does it mean fighting the rulers and demolishing their system and replacing it with the Islamic system? Or as Youssef Chouhoud says, “I support the rule of law and the enshrining of democratic institutions.” What does this mean? Which democratic institutions? But wait doesn’t democracy contradict Islam? Isn’t democracy the rule of man and Islam the rule of Allah? Where will sovereignty lie?

      There are so many questions and realities that need to be properly defined and understood before we can proceed in any given direction. However, in all this there is one matter which is absolutely clear and upon which there can be no compromise. The source of all solutions must be the Quran and Sunnah. Whoever proposes a solution must first be qualified to give one (ie, a scholar of Islam) and secondly must provide the detailed evidences for their ijtihad.

      This is not a simple problem that we face and to jump on to a bandwagon without fully understanding is a catastrophe just waiting to happen. May Allah (SWT) guide our Ullema so that they can guide the Ummah of Rasulallah (SAW) to victory in this life and success in the Hereafter.

      • Avatar

        yaseen

        August 19, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Salaam Saeed,

        May Allah’s peace and blessings reach you, your family, and this entire ummah. You asked the interesting question of just how you create and implement an legitimate Islamic government. The first thing that must happen is that the individuals involved in this process must have the sincere intentions to form an Islamic government not for their own gain but because they feel it is the right thing to do.

        Because of the nature of strategic geo-politics, the country must be financially stable and dependent because if they are not they are to bend to even whim that the funding government suggest. So if you are asking which country can do this, it must be a wealthy Islamic country, if your are asking how it can be achieved, I would say that there must a congress that consist of knowledgeable scholars who will check and assess ever decision that is to be made by the ruler. Each assessment must be checked solely by the Quran and Sunnah with no deviations at all. Deviations lead to extremes. An example of this is the silly rule in Saudi which states that women cannot wear seatbelts because it reveals the contour of their anatomy–so women must be in danger while men don’t have to?? COuple this with the fact that Saudi has an extremely high rate of car accidents and you can tag this as a disregard for the safety of our women and an extreme. A good book on the disadvantages of women in Saudi that was written by a female doctor who is from the US but lived in Saudi is titled “In the land of the Invisible Women”

        In closing, this would be beautiful to see for many reasons but the one that stands out to me would be to see an Islamic government enact the paying of zakat which would not only result in ZERO POVERTY but a surplus as well. This surplus could be used to improve infrastructure, schools, and scientific advancements that focus on improving the healing capacity of medicine and not the destructive capacity of weapons. A side note of this is that the individual is who was ultimately responsible for creating the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, repeated his regret for his involvement until his death because of man’s vioent tendencies.

        • Avatar

          Tanveer Khan

          August 20, 2013 at 3:51 PM

          “An example of this is the silly rule in Saudi which states that women cannot wear seatbelts because it reveals the contour of their anatomy”

          I’ve lost my eyes…..

  2. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Dear Youssef,
    A balanced article would comment on the over 49 Coptic churches that have been burned down and desecrated by these peaceful Islamists over the last 4 days. They also brought out some nuns for public humiliation. Is this consistent with the teachings of the Prophet? I know the Muslim Brotherhood has “condemned” this behavior, but frankly, I do not believe a word of it.

    • Avatar

      Hassen

      August 18, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      of course there’s no justification for damaging the churches and it’s something to be condemned, but we have to realize that Egypt has entered into an unprecedented level of chaos (even greater than the Jan 25th revolution) and there are going to be crazy people who just take things into their own hands and aim their anger at anyone who is supporting the other side.

      *And I’m honestly not 100% convinced by the official story of who’s behind these attacks considering that it was revealed that Mubarak’s government was behind the church explosion in Alexandria right before the Jan 25th revolution started… and Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Umm Naadirah

      August 18, 2013 at 5:09 AM

      It’s rather strange that over 49 churches (both Coptic and Catholic) have been burned down and yet only 7 Christians have been killed over the past few months in Egypt (bbc.com), which is extremely small given that over 1000 Egyptians (mostly Muslim) have been killed since the coup.

      It’s also strange that the mosques which have been burned down and vandalised have received very little attention in the MainStream Media.

      I’m convinced that it’s not the MB who are burning down these churches but rather it is either the military or foreign Islamists, or a combination of the two. The reason I am convinced is because the military has done VERY VERY LITTLE to try to stop, arrest, or shoot the people burning churches (and mosques).

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      August 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      I know a few people in the brotherhood in Egypt with whom I interacted during their studies in the US and who are very trustworthy. They have said (and posted pictures) of these things being perpetrated by thugs, not the brotherhood.

      The media in Egypt is going crazy with accusations of the brotherhood, most of them completely unfounded and some of them absolutely crazy (I mean people were saying Morsi was planning to rent out the pyramids to another country…), so taking their word for who did these things is problematic.

      Furthermore, are you really saying that these 1300 people (and the numbers are almost surely higher, there have been many reports of government officials putting down ‘suicide’ or ‘accident’ as cause of death for those shot) deserve to die because a few churches were burnt down? Do you want to say that to my wife’s friend who just lost her husband who was shot by a sniper while PEACEFULLY protesting the government crackdown?

      If the brotherhood really did burn down churches, I condemn it. But until you show proof for it, let’s not justify the massacre by “oh, they’re a bunch of extremists anyway”.

  3. Avatar

    Shurufa

    August 17, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Islam is perfect, teachings of our prophet (May peace be upon him) is flawless. But all Muslims are not. Please don’t base your views of Islam on the behavior of some of our deviated brothers and sisters..

  4. Avatar

    Youssef Chouhoud

    August 17, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    Dear Jon,

    Unfortunately time and space restrictions forced my hand, so I couldn’t touch on all the travesties of the past few days – given they were so many.

    But, for the record, the burning of houses of worship across Egypt was utterly disgraceful. Any individuals involved should be apprehended and subject to punishment under the law.

    Here’s the thing, Jon – and I say this speaking only for myself. I don’t “support” the Muslim Brotherhood. I support the rule of law and the enshrining of democratic institutions. The army, as they have shown time and again, have no interest in furthering those ends and so I am avowedly against their rule and against those who brought them into power.

    This doesn’t mean I brush aside any of the (numerous) mistakes the MB have made – from idiotic to grievous. Although, that being said, I’m not convinced that there is anywhere near enough evidence to place responsibility for all the church burnings on the MB and their supporters.

  5. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Youssef – If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then most likely it’s a duck! Who do you think is burning all these churches? Santa Claus? Bradley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles issues a racist diatribe and blames it on alcohol. Unfortunately, I believe that all alcohol does is unmask what was really in his heart. Similarly, the actions of those upset at the army’s overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood controlled government has unmasked what is in the “heart” of “some” Muslims. Unfortunately I believe that this widespread occurrence within Egypt should lead to a profound public reexamination of tolerance of Islam towards minorities living within an Islamic country (I don’t think it will, but it should.).

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Jon, if you think anything is conclusive in Egypt these days, or that there aren’t elements willing to go to ANY length to bring about the ends that would suit them, then you haven’t been paying attention. Again, that’s not absolving anyone who actually did commit these crimes, but let’s just hold off judgement on a series of events that fits oh so neatly into the ruling junta’s narrative until all the evidence is in.

      On the issue of religious minorities, Egypt has done a piss poor job of safeguarding them and granting them their due rights in the past and little has change. We have to do better.

      • Avatar

        halwah

        August 18, 2013 at 4:54 AM

        OMG Jon for god’s sake.. Please explain to me…what is the point of your comment? it’s a Muslim majority country.. and they can’t even protect their own mosques from being burnt to the grown or even protect their own Muslim people… what makes you think they care about churches or synagogues. If that’s how they treat people who are supposedly of their own religion.. what makes you think these very same people would treat others better? Egypt is in utter chaos. It is very much like a riot going on and it’s clear all hell will break lose, buildings will be burnt, public property destroyed, private property stolen, defaced.. and your like one of the victims.. pointlessly blaming me or yousef just because we happened to be talking about it why did we break and destroy your things. Have some sense of perspective. I know your upset but look you’re not the only one.. there are people who actually lost their loved ones to this madness.. and still trying to make sense out of it.. and you are asking as if we know what happened? Hello if we knew what is happening, what is the solution, we would have fixed it.. pronto.. but do you think we got a grip of the problem? NO. So have some sense..We’re upset too and at a lost. No one cares for any single one matter right now. Your talking about a country that is under a military coup right now, that has no sense of rule of law, that overthrew their first democratically elected government, that before Tahrir Square, has previously spent years after years trying to deIslamize Egypt. Did you forget all of that conveniently when your accusing Islam is at fault for this? Good try. Anyway, I think it is quite safe to say collectively people who have sense just want this madness and senseless killing to end. Those who want to try to force their agenda and have some political gains out of this chaos will surely make the way out of this difficult. But for sure, the death toll cannot rise, the destruction has to cease. And this anger has to stop. If you really care that much, don’t add fuel to the fire and be part of the solution.

  6. Avatar

    Moe

    August 18, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Jon what about the fact that no Churches were blatantly left unprotected by the state which clearly anticipated such violence. Or the fact that army snipers were placed on Churches? There are sectarian elements in Egyptian society and have been since Nasser and this type of Tiennamen crackdown in which all are complicit breeds radicalization and fear. This is the idiocy of the situation, the MB for all its flaws was heralding a new era of thought in Islamist circles. Al Qaeda’s narrative the whole world hate Islam and would never let Islamists ever rule in any government was beginning to lose currency as the MB and other Islamist parties were slowly but surely abiding by the rules of the game and learning democratic politics which had been denied to them and others for decades. In the Muslim world ‘Democracy’ used to mean the veneer to dictatorship. It will be once again if this junta succeeds. The MB has despite the bloodshed sought the path of nonviolence. One cannot help but feel this junta is going out of its way to breed a insurgency as all fascists do to justify its clinging to power. The situation is out of the MB’s leadership’s hands as the days go by. They will not be able to do anything and all those Egyptians that tried democracy for the first time and saw votes of 5 elections thrown in the garbage will no longer believe democracy exists for them. With Libya a safe haven in the east and a military that only knows how to lose wars and kill protesters Al Qaida and other extremist groups will shove “I told you so” down everyone’s throats and quietly begin. And we will see a war in Egypt that will easily become like what we are seeing in Syria. Regardless the end result will be that democracy is a distant dream.

    • Avatar

      Moe

      August 18, 2013 at 12:33 AM

      I meant that the churches were left unprotected by the state. The state did not guard them in anyway.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    I have been glued to the news on Egypt since Morsi was deposed. Every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. And now with the news that most MB supporters were expecting and saying from day one, that the state wants to disband MB. Of course, that will not be the end. The more you oppress a force, the more it becomes resilient. It would be much easier to defeat MB politically by winning hearts and minds based on economic and social policies (even resorting to propaganda as was the case for most of Morsi’s presidency) than to defeat it by force.

  8. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    More thoughts:
    While all of the violence thus far has been despicable to say the least, the images that I found most disturbing were from yesterday, with civilians (you can call them thugs but that’s a lot of thugs) kissing up to the military and being more Sissi than Sissi himself. Reminds me of Uncle Tom, where some slaves would get more angry at insults upon their masters than the masters themselves!

    How do average people get so numb and heartless to the killing of people with whom they share common ancestry, religion and race? I cannot think of any other factor bigger than the media. Once Sissi shut down outlets ranging from neutral to pro-MB, the only ones left were those that embodied the Uncle Tom spirit, those run and owned by Egypt’s elites who prospered under Mubarak and didn’t want anything but Mubarak back. There was an important article in Christian Science Monitor I believe that I can’t locate, which talks about this media affect on average Egyptians. Egyptian media has done what FOX couldn’t imagine doing in a hundred years. If we thought FOX was islamophobic, Egyptian media has taken this to another extreme.

    What is happening with the dehumanization of brothers specifically but more dangerously with anyone who looks Muslim++ (beard, niqab) will have wide and long-term consequences. We know what happened with Jews in Europe (the technique there was not just about Judaism as a religion but that Jews were “money-grubbers”, etc.). Now I am not saying that pro-coup folks are like Nazis. But rather there are themes that are common in terms of how to dehumanize the other.

    If Egyptians don’t start sealing this fracture, their society with a large percent of Muslims++ will rip apart before too long.

  9. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Final thought for now:

    Many, like Jon, harp on the churches issue. Let me say it loud and clear– no building, whether a church or a mosque or a synagogue is worth more than one innocent civilian’s life. Even in Islamic tradition you find that a life is worth more than the Kaba, the holiest sanctuary for Muslims in the world.

    What is really so disgusting and despicable is Sissi’s governments’ attempt to use the churches issue to divert attention from its crimes against humanity. Can’t we use the simple logic that with the amount of state security resources that government has, it couldn’t provide protection to the churches? Rather the interim govt wanted this sort of reaction. Just like they wanted a reaction by the MB in response to their massacres. The latter is not a conspiracy theory but is now being channeled by many influential political commentators.

    Thus Egyptian Christians have become unwitting pawns in the military plan to destroy MB. And unfortunately the Copts made the strategic mistake of siding with any side. This is because they could not, should not have ignored the underlying current of “Christian vs. Muslims” and not allow that to be exploited. One could imagine the same if roles were reversed and it was Christian brotherhood which was removed from power and if the Muslims cheered and supported the removal. We cannot ignore underlying perceptions, even if Copts have as much right to support the military as non-copts. It is about staying above the fray to protect your own.

    Of course, this doesn’t excuse the act itself. Each person who had a hand in destroying one church, one Christian’s life or private property, be it MB supporters, government insiders, is a despicable low-life who should face the highest punishment allowed by law.

  10. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    August 18, 2013 at 4:39 AM

    What I see going on in Egypt is similar to what I saw going on in Bangladesh earlier in the year and in Turkey to a lesser extent also, and that is a power struggle between the so-called Islamist and secularist elements of Muslim societies. And unfortunately I have to wonder whether any sort of dialogue existed between these two factions prior to all these struggles, or if the two groups (secularists and Islamists) just actively avoided each other for the most part during peacetime. As practicing Muslims, I believe it has to be our duty to reach out to those secularist elements so as to discuss with them completely what Islam is and what it entails and to give Da’wah to them towards better understanding what Islam is (a complete way of life that offers solutions to all issues affecting society). Before we go out to give dawah of course, we have to ourselves be knowledgeable about Islam first. And we should give da’wah using compassion and beautiful forms of persuasion. It’s all too easy to avoid, look down upon, and even curse out those who, despite being Muslim, don’t follow or know about the tenets of Islam properly. But we as practicing Muslims must never take the easy way out, otherwise it leads to chaos like what we see going on today in many Muslim countries (everyone fighting to gain power and not knowing how to wield that power effectively once they have it).

    • Avatar

      convert of 24 years

      August 18, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      The best form of Daw’ah is being a good person.It starts at home then at the Masjid. At our masjid events everyone sits with their own race, we do not even know each other
      Outside the Masjid most of us do not even interact with people of different faiths
      Do we know our neighbors?? Is all this chaos really surprising??

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        August 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        You’re right it does start with each and every one of us first. Hopefully this has started to be done now.

  11. Avatar

    halwah

    August 18, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    I’d like to have a pro coup write an article here and justify this Islamically. It will also be interesting to read a Erdogan vs protestors and Sisi vs protestors comparison, because I’m sure some opportunists will do so.

  12. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 18, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I would like to thank everyone for reading my posts and responding. It was certainly not my intent to hijack the thread of this article with my comment on the Coptic churches, but since I have the opportunity, let me clarify and respond to some of the comments made.
    1) I am NOT a supporter of the Egyptian military coup, and their actions are difficult to even remotely begin to justify. I have NEVER stated that the destruction of the Coptic churches was a justification of the actions of the military.
    2) Mr. Chouhoud: Your writing is clear and well thought out. My criticism is not on what you write but rather on what you choose not to write. Your responses to me acknowledging that some of the mistakes made by the MB are “idiotic to grievous” reveal you to be open-minded and show that you clearly understand the major issues involved. Why then would you not include these thoughts in your articles rather than only acknowledging them when questioned? A true journalist examines the entire truth no matter where it leads him. A commentator is clearly allowed to interject his opinions, but if he selectively only sees (or reports) one side he compromises his ability to influence those who do not originally share his opinions. Your article is like preaching to the choir. If you wish to truly influence people who do not share your opinion you must be able to report on all sides of an issue in order to get to the “truth.” (whatever that is!)
    3) There are many here who assume that since Egypt is completely falling apart, the destruction of the many Coptic churches is a minor issue that is being given too much attention. I respectively disagree. The perception in the West is this is “proof” of Muslim intolerance and that any sympathy that was being generated for the Egyptian populace is not deserved. Several people responded that the action of these people are just “crazies” or a small amount of people and should not be reflective of Islam in general. First, it really does seem that this is being perpetrated by a lot of people, not just a few. Second, since the Coptics apparently supported the coup, it is really quite Machiavellian/ Oliver Stone conspirist to attempt to convince me that the military is behind this. I will grant you that these incidents may have occurred without the approval or support of the MB, but I (and almost everyone else not on this website) will believe these acts of violence were committed by those who support the MB. If you wish to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend this isn’t so, well so be it.
    4) If Egyptians wish to show that the right of a non-Muslim to live and worship safely in a Muslim country is a fundamental tenant of Islam, then the actions of the last few days must be countered by more than simply meaningless words of regret and condemnation. There must be action. One writer asked me to be suggest an action so here it is: Muslims in Egypt should offer to rebuild these churches and sincerely offer to protect them. Just a thought.

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      Jon, though I may not always share your views, I do always welcome them. I will be more mindful to interject more balance in my pieces, although I do ask that you grant a little more benefit of the doubt as writers are always forced to tackle one angle or two at most to allow their work to be of an optimal length for online reading.

      On the issue of minorities, we’re largely in agreement that relations need to improve, although I would caution not to think that animosity is the norm. You mentioned protected Christian houses of worship. Well, as it turns out, that’s just what happened in the town of Sohag this past week: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/08/muslims-protecting-christians-in-egypt-during-mass.html Now, I wish there were more scenes like this, but rest assured that there is a large contingent in Egypt that wishes there to be peace and equal right of worship for all.

      -YC

      • Avatar

        Jon Solis

        August 18, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your sentiments. I also checked out the link for the website you mentioned. It is a wonderful story. Unfortunately they were not there four days ago when the church in Sohag was burned down to the ground.

  13. Avatar

    ZAI

    August 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    I think Shaykh Hamza has turned out to have the most prescient and validated comments
    on these political upheavals. Simply getting rid of rulers is not enough. As he has said, the
    most basic, elemental and foundational problem in the Muslim world today is the lack of
    akhlaq. There is simply a lack of basic civility, decorum and a spirit of accommodation and compromise. There is utter dishonesty, cheating and lack of tolerance. All of these things
    make it impossible to have a civil democracy and basically ensure that only dictators can rule
    these countries with anything resembling a semblance of civility…which ofcourse comes
    with corruption, lack of basic freedoms, and this recent exposition of barbarity when they feel
    their rule is threatened.

    This whole situation was problematic from the start. We will never have peace in our
    homelands until we learn that we MUST compromise and reach accommodation to have it.
    This zero-sum mentality that affects everyone from Islamists to secularists is a bane
    on civil society. Until we give up this “winner takes all” force what we want down people’s throats
    all or nothing nonsense, forget peace. Everyone is at fault here…the Brotherhood, the secularists, the liberals, the media. Everyone. This is the natural result of not caring about the rule of law, but instead investing in the idea of winner takes all and might is right. It is sad to see Egypt go down the same road as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, et. al.

    Lastly, I’d want to ask opposition figures like Baradai, what the h*ck did you except to happen
    through a coup supported by the likes of Saudi Arabia? In what alternate universe did you
    think that would lead to a liberal democracy? Wasn’t it enough to warrant suspicion that the Saudis
    were calling the original 2012 revolution “un-Islamic”, but they gave this one
    full backing and 12 billion in aid suddenly materialized?

    • Avatar

      Gibran Mahmud

      August 20, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      Do you care more about a liberal democracy or the law of Allah aza wa jal?

  14. Avatar

    shahgul

    August 18, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    There is no justification for killing 1300 people whatsoever. No matter where you are coming from. This is more heinous a crime than burning all the mosques and churches in the world. So don’t compare.

  15. Avatar

    Zaheer

    August 19, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    Some good points here (referring specifically to ZAI but others too). Basic rules of disagreement are being disregarded with the same lack of care that Muslims show towards each other’s lives.

    I would argue, however, that the problem here, and the underlying problem of the entire Arab spring and related conflict, is the massive, major, fundamental split that has occurred in the Arab/Muslim world. You could almost say there is a 50-50 split between those who want a secular state, and those who want an Islamic state. Whether the secularists/liberals are being influenced by the West (probably), and the Islamists are being backed by terrorist/extremist forces (likely), the fact is that Egyptians (and Tunisians, and and and…) want their country to head in radically different directions, and this conflict is the inevitable result of this AND the ‘winner takes all’ mentality, as well as the basic disregard for the lives of fellow Muslims/countrymen/Arabs/etc.

    In the Levant region, there is the added molotov of sectarian Sunni-Shia conflict on top of this already combustible situation, so the violence has a longer history, is even more bloody, if possible, and one could argue there is even less hope of a resolution in the near-future due to the radical differences between Sunni and Shia (real or imagined).

    The thing is, with due respect to those of us who support this kind of idea, Western-style democracy is Islamically impracticable. To enact democracy as the West conceives of it is to say: “We will only practice the Islam the majority of people want”. Since doing “what the majority want” means essentially doing what everyone can agree on – a.k.a. the Lowest Common Denominator (it ain’t just a math term) – Islam essentially becomes a surface religion like the Christianity currently practiced in the West, an extension of people’s personality, like their clothes and cellphones, and not a way of life. Argue however you like, this is what Western-style democracy leads to, given the nature of people to only agree on the lowest types of behaviour when in crowds. The current moral, ethical, and cultural bankruptcy of the West is testament to this. And let’s not forget, we can all agree – we need to make money, so rampant industrialism and consumerism is another “side-effect” of this type of political system (actually it’s the entire reason the West follows it, but that’s another topic for another day).

    Instead, as we have known for 1400+ years, the Islamic mode of governance/leadership is As-Shura – mutual consultation. Of course, secularists have somehow used this as a justification for rampant no-limits democracy, and argue that the Qur’an itself orders us to imitate the West with their bankrupt political systems, na’uthibillah. There is a hadith which indicates that something bad is still bad even though the majority of people engage in it, and good is still good even though only one person (or no one!) follows it. And our measure for this is Qur’an wal Sunnah. However, the basic assumption of democracy is that what is right is what the majority thinks is right, regardless of reality – “1 million people can’t all be wrong, right?”.

    Until the Muslim world re-realizes that our solutions are not in imitating the West in their failed and destructive quest for worldwide liberal democracy, and instead re-evaluate the meaning of their religion, and why Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was sent to us, we will forever be either in remorseless conflict or an apathetic state where Islam is an adornment for our unique, modern, utilitarian personalities.

  16. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 19, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    Unfortunately I can see a lot of uninformed comments probably formed by watching biased media. The western media is cheer-leading for chaos in Egypt and it pains me to see fellow Muslims do the same. The only ones who are supporting Egypt and its prosperity, to be frank, are Saudi Arabia and some other fellow Arab brothers.

    To those supporting the Brotherhood, I will say:

    1) They burn churches, is this what Islam preaches?
    2) They kill innocent people and claim they were shot by police. Their have been images of MB members posing “dead” for the camera
    3) Morsi destroyed Egypt’s economy
    4) Morsi and the Brotherhood were friends with the greatest enemy of Islam, Iran

    And if you talk about Islam, dont forget that the Saudi King is supporting Gen Sisi, and he is advised by eminent scholars and they know what is right in the light of Islam far more than any of us.
    And if that is not enough, even Al Azhar has spoken out against the Brotherhood.

    I can understand some western Muslims are unaware of how evil the Brotherhood are because they have not experienced them. I lived in the Gulf and people there are very wary of the Brotherhood and prominent personalities/Shuyookh have spoken out against the Fitna and chaos that they spread.

    • Avatar

      Hassen

      August 19, 2013 at 6:15 AM

      SubhanAllah, you think the Saudi king is doing this because it is “‘right in the light of Islam?!” The only motivation for this support is political. All the Arab dictators were perfectly happy with the solid control they had over their countries before the Arab Spring and they want to make sure they crush any possible threat to their control- simple as that. This has absolutely nothing to do with them wanting to further the cause of Islam.

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 19, 2013 at 6:17 AM

      wow, what a comment. So Saudi Arabia, known for its descipable human rights record and racism, is now a beacon of enlightenment? Can you repeat that please?

      To your four points:
      1) No evidence. If and when MB take responsiblity for it and say they destroy churches, you will see me being the first one to write against them.
      2) No evidence. The MB rallies had as much arms as Saddam had WMDs. Just like Bush sold WMDs to the American sheep population, Sissi has sold arms to the Egyptian sheep population. We ALL SAW IT. With our OWN eyes. Even if someone in the crowd used a gun or two, there was absolutely no evidence on record, that the crowd was armed. So please stop being a sheep.
      3) He didn’t destroy it. But doesn’t appear he helped it. And no one can forget how he was blocked from doing anything at every step by what is the now the post-coup alliance
      4) Iran is not the “greatest enemy of Islam”. Neither is Saudi or any country. The greatest enemies of Islam are those who justify the spilling of innocent blood and I hope you don’t get included in that. And who says that “guilt by association” is approrpriate?

      As for scholars of Saudi… please! Are you deliberately telling half the story or are you just in the dark of the full story? Shaykh Salman Ouda and Shaykh Arifee— two of the biggest names condemned the massacre in Egypt. And most other scholars will probably be put in jail if they say a word. As for Azhar, I think you missed the rally by Azhar scholars against the coup. The official figurehead of Azhar is a political appointee and as such is doing his job as well as the Saudi mufti– and that is to kiss up to whoever is in power.

      Finally, I am not a great lover of ikhwan… had lots of issues working with them in USA, but does that mean I will support a coup that has among its friends Assad, Israel, that benefits Israel the most, that wants to decimate influence of Islam in Egypt, that has made bearded men into targets, that kills at will (even its prisoners)? Look, there is a reason that pretty much all Western media has come out against it. And please the last thing Western media would be biased towards is Islam. There is no logic in it. The brutality and oppression is so obvious that even sheep will get it. And I hope you are more than a sheep.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        August 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM

        Hmm, Saudi mufti…are you sure?

  17. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Saudi Arabia’s human rights record? Whose version are we talking about? If its the western one, where criminals get rights, then yes its “bad”. But in eyes of Islam , they have done nothing wrong as they apply Shariah, which means a murderer wont be given 5 star accommodation.

    And overall, Saudis and citizens of other Gulf nations love their leaders who have given them a standard of living which is an envy of the average westerner; they drive better cars, have cleaner roads and safer societies.

    Anyways , coming to Egypt, have you noticed most of MB’s support seems to be foreign, from Turkey, western Muslims and other Brotherhood members? Most Arabs, and particularly Egyptians detest them. All Arab channels,with the exception of Jazeera are supporting Sisi. How do you explain that?
    When the siege at a mosque ended, common Egyptians wanted to lynch those inside, but the police stopped them doing that. Surely the Brotherhood must have done something to make the average Egyptian hate them so much?

  18. Avatar

    Pakistanisister

    August 19, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    wow… the articles and the comments are something I don’t know if I can completely distant myself from…. I feel for the people of Egypt the innocent men, women, and children who were doing peaceful protests for 2 months and the resultant deaths of 1000s of people in Egypt. The spilling of muslim blood and indeed many of those protestors were laymen not high figures in any movement political or otherwise. This spilling of blood is tragic, their voices have not been heared. What is even more tragic is the desensitization of this and other occurances.

    If you have an ideological difference from the brotherhood, fine but to be so niave and support the gulf countries in their sending money to the Egyptian army to stem the rebellion and by stem meaning actual field face time killing of muslims…bravo…on your understanding…. bravo…..

    Don’t mention the Saudi kings or their statements as an example of islaam following, they are the lesser of the two evils that muslims deal with. The Saudi scholars, esteemed scholars always speak out against rebellion because of the aftermath it causes…I wonder where they were when Morsi was elected president and enjoining salah(afterall that is the thin line between accepting a ruler over you no matter how much of a sinner and not). These same Saudi scholars, senior esteemd scholars were foremost in support Syrian people’s rebellion against the Bathist Assad but when the signal ws given by their king otherwise, they stopped.

    so may Allaah forgive them and guide the senior scholars for they really don’t have much in their hands.
    and yes Saudi to this day does hve human rights violations, whatever shariah they use to practice in the past is now diminishing, no more executions for murder and no public executions in Saudi. And yes the Gcc countires despite givng their citizens immense support are afraid of ikhwani influence, hence sendng money to the Egyptian army to kill more terrorists or ikhwanis or actually just muslim protestors.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  19. Avatar

    Mahmud

    August 20, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    At the core of this conflict is this-Islam versus kufr. Should Muslims stay Muslim and prefer Allah’s judgement or should they prefer another law and leave this deen?

    • Avatar

      Zaheer

      August 21, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      Sounds simple, but basically that’s what’s going on here. I wouldn’t go as far as saying ‘kufr’, but certainly the fundamental issue is a violent, bloody, and inhumane difference of opinion between which direction Egyptians (and most of the rest of the Arab/Levant world) want their society to head in.

      The Ikhwan want something, the leftist secularists want another, and the only “resolution” they can see is the violent revolutionary winner-takes-all mentality we see going on here. Remember that the Ikhwan and secularists put aside their differences to overthrow Mubarak, and both fought with and killed those who were supporting Mubarak at the time. Alliances quickly change when different circumstances present themselves.

      This is not to say the MB ‘got what was coming to them’; however, when they assumed power, they were naive to think that Egypt’s large secular contingent, which had always had control over the country’s media and commerce, etc., would sit idly by and support the re-Islamification of Egypt. That is against their interests – they do not want Islam as a state religion, nor do they even want an increase in Islamic awareness and practice in the country. Of course, this naturally allies them with the Copts and other religious minorities in the country.

      At the risk of repeating myself – this is the fruit of the kind of revolutions which have been all too common since the big French Revolution of the late 1700s. Complete societal meltdown and overthrow of the existing order, without a clear plan as to what the revolutionaries want to replace the current system. So, while Mubarak was tyrannical, and secularist in his own way, those who opposed him didn’t ensure they agreed what they wanted beforehand. Instead, they relied on the emotion of adrenaline-filled revolution, overthrew the government, and then hoped that elections would solve their problem, restore “freedom” and “peace”, a la The West. When the inevitable power-grabs occurred, due to the utter lack of consensus of what they wanted for the new Egypt, suddenly the Brotherhood were ‘doing things we did not elect them for’ – liberal democracy in action.

      As I have said before – the solution is simple, we just don’t want it because it involves more hard work than violence and constant conflict.

      It may be that Egypt needs to split, like Sudan did, into a part of the country which wants Shari’a, and the rest who don’t. That, would mean leaving homelands, giving up work, wealth, etc. Is this not exactly what the Muhajirun and our Nabiy (s.a.w.s.) did? Is this not a founding factor in our deen, so important that we start our calendar according to that great event? Yet it doesn’t even occur to us to do such a thing because we need big nation-states in order to compete with global economies. Who cares if we’re forcing people with severely different belief systems to live together? They’re replaceable in the great scheme of globalization – this is the fruit of following that which is not in our best interests. Hint – this is not ‘from the West; because this idea has spread everywhere, hence its ability to change societies around the globe.

      • Avatar

        Imran

        August 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Salaam,
        I hate to say it but you are right. Religious Muslims cannot live with secular Muslims. They want different things.

        At some point we’re going to need to discuss the issues of hypocrisy and sectarianism.

  20. Avatar

    awaiskhan

    August 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    If all Muslim countries and Muslim are not united and whenever we will hold the rope of Allah then these Barbarity wil be vanished.

  21. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 23, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    After Shaikh Sudais has given his opinion on the Brotherhood and how they are responsible for spreading violence and Fitna, no Muslim should have any illusions about this organization

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      August 23, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      Yes, no Muslims should have any illusion. It’s now crystal clear that they are heroic Muslims, struggling in the way of Allah to establish his law in Egypt.

    • Avatar

      Laila

      August 24, 2013 at 12:26 AM

      Interesting Hisham,
      I don’t know what your background is(ethnicity or views) but you just totally disregarded what I just wrote. I have a lot of respect for shaykh sudais but does he justify killing of the 1000s of people many of them families. I’ll go ahead and break it down for you. I do not agree with the ikhwanul muslimeen. I do not asribe to them nor am I part of them but I will defend their right to participate in a fair government with their votes which they had given and had a president who was democratically elected. their sit ins were peaceful initially without any “violence” the violence came afterwards this military coup.

      Despite being a proponent of neoconservative salafism with a few added out of the box views(which I am now quite comfortable with because rather than being a drone I’d rather think for myself and realize nobody works in a vacuum be it even the ma shaa ikh), I still think what dhulm happened to the people in Egypt is wrong.

      You did not have a jawaab for my post? do you even have an answer. May Allaah swt guide muslims like you and also myself.

      what is happening in Egypt I do not see it as “ikhwani problem.” I see it as a muslim problem. learn to think for yourself brother, do not be brainwashed(unless you are an xyz government official from an xyz nation then I apologize and please do not kill me for my views).

  22. Avatar

    Ummsalih

    August 24, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    @ Hisham. I’d say the opposite! After Shaikh Sudais has given his opinion on the Brotherhood and how they are responsible for ‘spreading violence and Fitna’, no Muslim should have any illusions about THIS MAN.’

    In contrary much respect for Sheikh Shuraim…look at his tweets on the situation.

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#Current Affairs

Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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#Current Affairs

Do You Know These Heroes of Eid?

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

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Rohingya children

Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, and the Eid honors and celebrates the fulfillment of that sacrifice. But for many the hardships do not end.

Between one million and three million Muslims are being detained in concentration camps in China, while masjids are being demolished and imams executed.

The Rohingya Muslims of Burma continue to suffer from terrible persecution. In one Rohingya refugee camp on the Burma / Bangladesh border there are half a million children. These children are banned by the Burmese authorities from attending school and are at risk of early marriage, child labor or being trafficked.

In the Central African Republic, the Muslim minority lives in daily fear of being killed, especially in the south.

The Palestinians continue to suffer after seventy years of occupation, with no end in sight.

Russian and Assad regime attacks on civilians continue in Syria, with the real possibility of an upcoming genocide in Idlib province.

Heroes Abound

In the midst of this all suffering, heroes abound. There’s Serikzhan Bilash of Kazakhstan, who has labored feverishly to document China’s internment of Muslims across the border. He urges those in his organization to continue their work, even as he himself has been arrested.

Those Rohingya children I mentioned in the refugee camp, banned from attending school? One 14-year-old Rohingya girl mentioned in the article has managed to enroll in school in Bangladesh. Her mother sold her food rations and borrowed money to create a fake Bangladeshi birth certificate, then paid a smuggler to take her daughter out of the camp. The girl herself says, “People hate the Rohingya here. I don’t tell people I am one… I have to lie about my identity to survive. Even though it’s a big struggle… I am able to study. There are hundreds of thousands of kids like me inside of the camps who are forced to marry off early…They have no opportunities.”

Also in that camp is 13-year-old Halim, who runs his own tutoring service, where he teaches more than 20 children. He says, “I am teaching them so they can do something for our nation. If they don’t learn anything, they can’t prosper in their life, as well as they can’t fight for the nation.”

Razan al-Najjar

Razan al-Najjar

In Palestine, let us not forget Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic from Gaza who was shot by an Israeli sniper on June 1, 2018, while tending to a tear gas victim. In her last Facebook post, the day before she was killed, she wrote, “Your conscience will be comforted as much as possible since God always knows your intention. #sleep_well Be good.”

In Syria, we have Dr. Omar Ibrahim, an Egyptian neurosurgeon who could probably be earning a hefty salary anywhere in the world, but instead labors under constant bombardment in the war-torn and half crushed city of Idlib. He’s been in Syria for five years and says, “I have no regrets about doing this work. Because I have passion for my work, and this work inspires me.”

A Religion of Heroes

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Dr. Omar Ibrahim

Such stories are amazing, but they are not unique. There are countless heroes, and should that surprise us? Islam is a religion of heroes, and has always been so, going all the way back to its inception in Makkah, when the Prophet Muhammad (sws) drew around himself the weak and powerless, the slaves and foreigners. They were tortured, but did not surrender their new faith. Heroes.

Or, several years later, when the disbelievers of Arabia came in great numbers to wipe the Muslims off the face of the earth. The Muslims dug a great trench around Madinah, and held off the attackers under conditions of hunger and terrible cold, until – with Allah’s help – the siege was broken. Heroes.

So if you thought such heroes were a thing of the past, remember Serikzhan Bilash, the Rohingya girl, Halim, Razan al-Najjar, Dr. Omar Ibrahim and the untold, uncounted heroes like them. You may even know a few heroes personally. I do.

There’s my friend Karim, who works for an organization that sponsors Muslim orphans. He’s overworked and underpaid, and struggles to support his family and two children. He’s highly experienced and could earn more somewhere else. But he sticks with it because he believes in Islamic work.

I think also of my daughter’s homeroom teacher, sister Sharmeen. She’s an enthusiastic teacher who pushes the children to read, write and understand the roots of language. She does more than is required and is not appreciated as she should be. But once again, her passion drives her.

Persistence of Dua’

Our local Imam recently gave a khutbah about the importance of dua’. He said that Allah loves the dua’ that is persistent. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawa’: “One of the most beneficial of remedies is persisting in dua’.”

So be persistent. Pray for our suffering Ummah, and pray for our heroes. And donate whatever you can spare to the organizations that work on their behalf.

My Ordinary Life

As for me, my life is ordinary. On the morning of Eid, I, my mother and my daughter Salma – who is twelve years old now – wake up early and put on our best clothes, inshaAllah. We get in the car and stop at Krispy Kreme donuts.  I buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a long line and elbow people to snatch a cruller.

I pick up my cousin’s son, who does not have a car. We go downtown to the Fresno convention center and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. The Eid salat begins, then I strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. Especially, the sisters. Sorry ladies, but it’s true :-)

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone is wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of sharing a connection with every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, my mother makes cookies, and we put some decorations on the walls. Salma opens her presents, which this year are a new Switch game, a dartboard and a pearl necklace. It’s the first piece of real jewelry I’ve ever bought her. Buying it left me with $18 in my bank account, which means I predict a lot of Uber driving (my side job) in my near future. So I hope she likes it.

On such days, I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim and a better human being.

The Spirit of the Prophets

I also talk to Salma, as I do every year, about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world, fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid or pearl necklaces. Some are starving. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet they are resolute. They have a deep strength that, like the well of Zamzam, never runs dry, SubhanAllah. They will not give up their hopes, their dreams or their faith, Allah willing.

These are the real heroes of Eid. I feel small next to them. They are the ones living the spirit of the Prophets and the Sahabah. They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

May Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, and tyranny with freedom. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

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#Current Affairs

OpEd: The Planned Saudi Executions Have A Context

The Arab Spring and its immediate aftermath was a wake-up call to all those who feared for the security of their thrones

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By Abdullah Abu Dawud

The news of the intended Saudi execution of three prominent scholars has infuriated many observant Muslims around the world. This is no surprise considering the fact that that the three scholars have attracted a vast audience through their TV programs and social media activity. These three scholars, and many like them, have been the source of religious knowledge and inspiration for many Muslims, not only in the Arab world, but around the globe.

However, our objection Saudi Arabia’s treatment and intended execution of these scholars should not be simply rooted in emotion. In order to properly oppose such reckless decisions, we must understand the motivation behind them and the context in which they exist. For as reckless as these decisions may be, they are not arbitrary and are not devoid of context. They exist within a bigger picture; a picture that I will try to sketch in this article. We must rewind back to the early part of the 20th century. That era witnessed events that, by all accounts, changed the nature of the Muslim world. The Muslim lands that were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire were conquered and colonized by Western powers (Britain and France), and the office of the Caliph (based in Istanbul) was abolished. This was accompanied by a calculated uprooting of Islamic social and legal structures that existed for centuries; the colonizing powers imported their European structures to serve as the new order in this part of the world. By the end of the colonization project, populations across the Arab world ended up with corrupt and authoritarian regimes and social structures and legal codes which were imported from foreign countries.

Inevitably, this new reality that was imposed on the Arab populations gave rise to organic reactions which aimed to resist this new reality. Eventually, a broad movement (often labeled as the “Islamic movement”) took shape with two main identifiable goals: 1) The revival of Islamic law and values and re-establishing Islam’s role in governance and public life (which was highly reduced after the abolishment of the Caliphate), and 2) Establishing a governance system whose legitimacy was rooted in the consent of the people. It may also be said that those two primary goals also served as criteria by which Muslim governments would be measured; i.e their adherence to Islam and their respect for the will of the populations. This broad movement was largely led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and then spread across the Arab and Muslim world. Although the Brotherhood is deemed to be an originator of this movement, today, many people share this vision of “revival” and “popular legitimacy” while lying outside of the organizational borders of the Brotherhood (but can still be described as being part of the “Islamic movement”).

Those who shared this vision, not surprisingly, were constantly pursued by the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world. It is also not surprising that those who shared this vision would be vocal supporters if not active participants in the Arab Spring. Indeed, the Arab Spring has demonstrated repeatedly that Arab populations yearn for a participatory form of government and find a certain appeal in the message of Islamic parties (as evidenced by the electoral victories of Islamic parties in all countries of the Arab Spring). In other words, the Arab Spring made it clear to all observing autocrats that, when given the choice, Arab populations will likely elect Islamic parties into power. The Arab Spring and its immediate aftermath was a wake-up call to all those who feared for the security of their thrones. In Abu-Dhabi and Riyadh, things were clear: The Arab spring is either to be reversed, or they will be next. With the successful ousting of the Brotherhood in Egypt and the unconditional green-light given by the Trump administration, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo have decided to kill the Arab Spring once and for all. The recent news about the intended execution in Saudi Arabia must be seen in this context.

Clerics such as Salman Al-Ouda, Ali Al-Omari, and Awad Al-Qarni were all vocal supporters of the Arab Spring uprisings and are associated with the Sahwa movement (which is a movement of Islamic political activism in the Gulf that draws heavily on Brotherhood ideas). The Arab autocrats simply view those voices as a danger. They represent a movement which challenges the status quo and questions the legitimacy of the rule of Arab autocrats; a movement which can be traced to the movement originated by the Brotherhood following the fall of the Caliphate and beginning of colonization. The autocrats could not afford to have influential clerics and TV personalities preach about popular legitimacy or the relevance of Islamic values and principles to public life and governance; after all, these are ideas that, if believed, would seriously question the legitimacy of their rule. As such, and after getting brief a taste of what free choice would look like in Arab nations, it became clear that the to these autocrats that the danger was more real than what they thought and more immediate. It seems that their action plan is simply to silence anyone who represents the spirit of the “Islamic movement”. From their perspective, they want to chop off the head of the snake and settle the matter once and for all.

These intended executions are not about support for extremism (a laughable accusation). Nor are they about views concerning the recent blockade on Qatar. Nor are they about the clerics’ criticisms of their government; in fact, these clerics did engage in harsh criticism of the Saudi government. Their crime is that they represent a message that, by definition, calls into question the legitimacy of the Saudi government. More importantly, it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire “order” that exists in the Arab world. The Saudi government is declaring war (along with its allies in Abu-Dhabi and Cairo) against those who represent a movement that has the potential of redefining the Arab world. Even if those clerics do not engage in direct confrontation with the Saudi government and express their views in positive terms, the existence of that message and its accessibility to Arab populations is serious enough of a problem.

What these autocrats to do not realize is that the ideas which these scholars represent exist independently of the efforts and words of these scholars. The belief in the centrality of Islam and the will of the people exists in the conscience of the vast majority of Muslims. These ideas are not the product of scholars such as Salman Al-Ouda, Awad Al-Qarni, or Ali Al-Omari. Rather, those scholars are the product of the ideas which organically exist in the minds of many Muslims. As such, executing these scholars will not bring an end to those ideas whose strength was demonstrated in the aftermath of the Arab spring. If anything, such executions are an affirmation by the Saudi government that it and its autocratic allies stand on very feeble ground. If the Saudi government goes through with its plan, all it will be doing is creating a void that will inevitably be filled by other people represent the same ideas. The cycle will keep going until the feeble ground which these autocrats stand gives way.

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