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Orwell’s Egypt

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Suffice it to say, this is the most depressing anniversary yet of the Egyptian uprising. Somehow, the country has managed in the last three years not only to make no societal progress, but to actually regress to a situation that in many ways is worse than the Mubarak-era status quo. A cursory rundown of recent events highlight the utter absurdity of public discourse since the July 3rd coup.

We’ve always been at war with the Muslim Brothers

In order to fashion themselves as heroes, the military had to be sure to cast the role of State Villains. This process was well underway in the lead up to last year’s June 30 protest and was subsequently amped up – by orders of magnitude – in the aftermath of Morsi’s overthrow. That summer, “news” programs regularly affixed a banner with some variation of “Egypt Fights Terrorism” to the broadcast ticker (a trend that still continues). In case that graphic proved too subtle, stations began producing promos accusing the Brotherhood of carrying out a holocaust (complete with spelling and syntax about as dreadful as their journalistic integrity). All this was a prelude, of course, to the official word from on high proclaiming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization – that’s when surreality really took hold.

Blacklisting a significant segment of the Egyptian population has emboldened conspiracy theorists, prosecutors, and the broader state security apparatus. The result at times has been patently bizarre, such as the accusation that a well-known puppet – yes, an actual puppet – was conveying instructions for a terrorist plot through seemingly innocuous dialogue (only to the untrained ear, of course) for a Vodafone commercial. More troubling is the virtual institutionalization of Thought Crimes, wherein a schoolboy is jailed for have a “R4BIA” sign on his ruler, posting the symbol to your Facebook profile can get you up to 5 years in prison, and criticizing the Egyptian judiciary on Twitter is outlawed. Most distressing, however, is the brazen incarceration and indictments of practically any and all vocal critics of the regime – not simply Brotherhood leaders, but also liberal/secular activists and prominent academics. All this as the interim president glibly declares that Egypt is no longer a police state.

He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past.

Not content with merely limiting the range of acceptable thoughts, Egyptian authorities and their media enablers are busy delimiting the nation’s cache of acceptable memories. To be sure, throughout any transitional period, historical revisionism is going to be the norm. “Facts” will ebb and flow as various parties see fit to cast them to their advantage. The Muslim Brotherhood’s role during the early stages of the uprising has been a particular flashpoint. The politicization of the historical record (again, especially as it concerns the MB) is even evident in the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square.”

Yet the tactics and reach of bloggers, spokespeople, or even acclaimed filmmakers pale in comparison to the power of the state to re-write the recent past. This includes, of course, the military’s role in atrocities committed at Mohammed Mahmoud and Rabia Al-Adawiyyah. With little fanfare, too, the memory of the martyr that helped spark the uprising is being tarnished and effaced. And so, this demonization of the Brotherhood and revolutionary symbols, coupled with the whitewashing of the army’s crimes now allows, in an obscene turn of events, the interior ministry (the original target of all the anger on January 25, 2011) to call for celebrations and rallies commemorating the “glorious revolution.”

Sisi, Egypt’s doubleplusgood leader

No variation on an Orwellian theme is complete without mass delusion and submission, and Egypt is no different. Were that these absurdities were seen as evidence of the regime’s loose grip on reality. Were that these human rights violations and violent crackdowns were viewead with the indignation they rightfully deserve. As it is, not only is a large portion of the Egyptian populace (at least a plurality and likely a majority) content with the direction the country is headed, but they are looking to double-down with calls for the Defense Minister (and de facto state leader), Gen. Abdel Fatah El Sisi, to run in the country’s next presidential elections. Between state officials dubbing Sisi Egypt’s De Gaulle, musicians producing anthems proclaiming “We Want You (O Sisi),” and media outlets generally fawning over the general’s bravado, it is hard to imagine that he would not win in a landslide should he decide to throw his Soviet-era army hat into the ring.

So where does that leave the rest of us who have eschewed the false dichotomy of security vs. freedom? Sadly, I fear that an already long, dark road after Mubarak’s fall has grown exponentially longer and darker. As I conclude this piece, news of multiple explosions in Cairo is hitting the wire. No doubt anger will be focused almost exclusively on the MB and their sympathizers. Likely, a crackdown will ensue, providing more motivation for extremists to resort to violence, and so the spiral downward will go on ad infinitum. Along the way, the vitriol will only increase and the impression that Egypt needs a strong, military leader to pull it out of its depressed state will grow stronger.

It’s hard to imagine when there will once again be room for good faith debate and meaningful dialogue in Egypt.

It’s hard to imagine when we can once again celebrate #Jan25 and all that it stands for, rather than lament all it has momentarily been co-opted to mean.

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.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mahmud

    January 26, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    All I can say is, it’s clear to me that if someone wants to believe a lie, they will go ahead and believe it. People can hide under the banner of Islam, claim to be Muslim and yet oppose Allah’s dominion on earth. Their niqabs and hijabs and beards and outward religiosity do not fool us.

    Their claims that Mursi and his group are terrorists and the like do not fool us. It’s as if they expect us to excuse them for avidly listening the the obvious lies of the media. It’s as if they expect us to sincerely believe that they are sincerely being fooled. These people aren’t in North Korea. They aren’t in Cuba.

    فَاسْتَخَفَّ قَوْمَهُ فَأَطَاعُوهُ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ
    So he bluffed his people, and they obeyed him. Indeed, they were [themselves] a people defiantly disobedient [of Allah ].

    Perhaps the time when there will be the people of nifaq and people of iman split into two camps is coming close.

    And don’t think the people of nifaq wouldn’t dress in hijabs, wear beards, pray five times a day and the like………

    But we know them by the tone of their voice.

    “It’s hard to imagine when there will once again be room for good faith debate and meaningful dialogue in Egypt.”

    You cannot have a debate with a group which is split into liars and those who avidly listen to those liars whose lies are clearer than day and night.

    The believers in Egypt should forget trying to have a dialogue or playing by their rules.

    Perhaps Allah intends fitnah for some or all of them.

    وَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ فِتْنَتَهُ فَلَن تَمْلِكَ لَهُ مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يُطَهِّرَ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

    But he for whom Allah intends fitnah – never will you possess [power to do] for him a thing against Allah . Those are the ones for whom Allah does not intend to purify their hearts. For them in this world is disgrace, and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.

    Tafsir of the full ayah here

    http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=777&Itemid=60

  2. Avatar

    Ali

    January 27, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    I do not understand one thing; if Morsi is so good why is it that most Egyptians are against the Brotherhood? On the other hand, most of Morsi’s supporter seem to be Pakistanis, Turkish, and Hamas supporters who frankly do not know what is good for the Egyptians better than the Egyptians themselves.
    How can it be that middle class Egyptians, businessmen, tv channels, newspapers are all against the Brotherhood?
    Also there has been so many bombings and terrorist attacks by the Brotherhood recently, can you truly look in the mirror and claim this is what Islam asks for? To kill civilians and policemen?

    • Avatar

      Chris

      February 10, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      @Ali, The reason that TV channels and newspapers are against the Brotherhood is clear.

      One of the very first acts of the coup was to close all media outlets that were deemed to be against the coup – therefore the only TV stations and newspapers currently operating are those who supported the coup in the first place. Prior to the coup, there were TV stations and newspapers that were both pro-Morsi/MB, and anti-Morsi/MB. They had the freedom to express an opinion. Now only those who are anti MOrsi/MB are allowed to operate.

      That leaves middle class Egyptians and businessmen – why are they against the Brotherhood?

      For starters, we don’t actually know that they are all against the Brotherhood for two reasons, Firstly, there are no reports of these people being pro Brotherhood because, as described above, only pro-coup, anti-MB media are allowed to operate. Secondly, anyone who dares open his mouth against the coup (whether they are pro-MB or not) is liable to be arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned for the crime of speaking against the coup.

      So it’s perfectly possible that there are middle class Egyptians and businessmen who are pro MB or anti-coup, but who daren’t open their mouths.

      That’s just for starters, though. Consider that many middle class Egyptians and businessmen did well out of the Mubarak years – it is the poor people who have been left destitute. It was noticeable in the anti-Morsi protests that many of the people taking part in them had nice clothes and well coiffured hair. In the pro-Morsi demonstrations that were going on at the same time, it was noticeable that many of the people wore old cheap clothes – they were the poor.

      So I think that for a lot of middle class Egyptians and businessmen, it is a case of they would rather have the sort of environment that they know how to operate in – they have done well out of it in the past, so they expect to do well out of it in the future.

      Unfortunately, the poor people, who are the majority in Egypt, get sidelined by this thought process.

  3. Avatar

    Azeem

    January 28, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    Most egyptian are sheep.

  4. Avatar

    ZAI

    January 30, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    There isn’t going to be any peace in the Muslim majority countries until all sides and all individuals realize that
    compromise is necessary and one can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Right now it’s all about ego, arrogance and power with all the sides thinking it’s a zero-sum game with one winner.

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      February 6, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      Yeah, Abu Bakr RA had lots of ego for this deen, he didn’t compromise with the post-Sirah version of secularists. Too much ego, but fortunately this deen became superior by the mercy of Allah aza wa jal.

  5. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    February 26, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    This lying about history was well-known during the Mubarak era as well — the regime then claimed “victories” over Israel that were simply advances, which the Israelis later reversed. I also remember being in a cab on the way to Nasr City for Arabic classes, and the driver told me and my friend how he loved President Nasser, and then added that he loved President Mubarak as well. I’m guessing he was a secret police agent, because he couldn’t have thought we were.

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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

An Urgent Call Regarding the Plight of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari

Shaykh Salman Younas

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Saudi scholars, injustice

دعوة عاجلة بخصوص أزمة الشيخ سلمان العودة، والشيخ عوض القرني، والدكتور علي العمري

الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وآله

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

لقد تلقينا بقلق بالغ ما يتوارد من أخبار غير مؤكدة حول الإعدام الوشيك للشيخ سلمان العودة، و الشيخ عوض القرني، و الدكتور علي العمري

لقد علمنا الإسلام أن الحياة نعمة من الله و إن أولئك الذين يعملون على حرمان أى أحد من هذه النعمة دون أساس شرعي واضح قد ارتكبوا إثمًا فظيعًا عدّه الله من الكبائر: وَمَن يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا (سورة النساء، 93)

حرمة المؤمن

إن رسول الله ﷺ وصحابته قد اعتبروا حياة كل من نطق الشهادة، وكذا ماله وعرضه حرامًا لا يُقبل انتهاكها ولقد حرصوا كل الحرص على ألا ينتهكوا تلك الحقوق الأصلية حتى في تطبيق الحدود

قال رسول الله ﷺ: ادفَعوا الحدود ما وجدْتم لها مدفعًا (سنن ابن ماجة)، وقال ابن مسعود: ادرءوا الجلد والقتل عن المسلمين ما استطعتم (السنن الكبرى)

إن حرمة دم المسلم عند رسول الله ﷺ عظيمة جدًا، فلزوال الدنيا أهون عنده من قتل امرئٍ مسلم (سنن الترمذي)

ولقد كان السلف يقولون عند طوافهم بالكعبة: ما أعظمك وأعظم حرمتك، والمؤمن أعظم حرمةً عند الله منك (رواه الترمذي)

التماس رأفة

في ضوء الهدي النبوي، وعِظم أمر انتهاك الحقوق الأصلية التي منحها الإسلام للمسلم، فإننا نطالب السلطات المعنية بأن يوقفوا أي خطة مبيتة لإعدام الشيخ سلمان العودة، والشيخ عوض القرني، والدكتور علي العمري، سواءً في المستقبل القريب أو البعيد

نطالب أولئك الذين في السلطة أن يصدروا عفوًا في حقهم في هذا الشهر المبارك

إننا نؤمن بيقين أن هؤلاء العلماء لم يقترفوا أى شيءٍ يبرر التعامل المروع الذي يتعرضون له لمدة عام وأكثر وإننا نطلق هذا النداء كنصيحة صادقة، محققين دورنا كعلماء عليهم واجب بيان الحق، ومستحضرين أن كل واحد فينا سيسأل عن عمله في الآخرة حيث الظلم ظلمات لا تفضي إلا إلى عذاب النار

والله في عون المظلومين واللهم صل وسلم وبارك على سيدنا محمد

17 رمضان 1440 /22 مايو 2019

كتب بواسطة (الشيخ) سلمان يونس

 

An Urgent Call Regarding the Plight of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari

All praise belongs to Allah, and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad and His family.

Peace and mercy be upon you:

It is with great concern and perturbation that we have received unconfirmed reports regarding the imminent execution of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari.

Islam teaches us that life is a blessing from Allah. Those who seek to deprive someone of this blessing without a clearly sanctioned religious basis have committed an act that God deems atrocious and a mighty sin: “If anyone kills a believer deliberately, the punishment for him is Hell, and there he will remain: Allah is angry with him, and rejects him, and has prepared a tremendous torment for him.”(Qur’an, 4:93)

The Inviolability of the Believer

The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions viewed the life, wealth, and honor of all who uttered the testimony of faith (shahada) as inviolable. They took immense care not to impede on these basic rights even in the context of enacting punishments.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Avoid applying punishments as long as you are able to find an excuse to avert them,”(Sunan Ibn Majah) and Ibn Masʿud stated, “Avoid flogging and applying the death penalty upon people as much as you can.”(Sunan al-Kubra)

Indeed, the sanctity of the believer was so great in the eyes of the Prophet ﷺ that he deemed the destruction of the world as a lighter affair than the killing of even a single Muslim. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

Similarly, the early Muslims (salaf) would remark when gazing upon the Kaʿba, “The inviolability of a believer is greater with Allah than your inviolability.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi) There are few statements one can imagine as emphatic as these in affirmation of the rank of the believer.

A Call for Clemency

In light of the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ and the gravity of depriving a Muslim of the fundamental rights granted to him or her by Islam, we urge the authorities in question to immediately cease any plans to execute Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari in the immediate or distant future.

We urge those in the leadership to grant them clemency in this blessed month of Ramadan.

It is our firm belief that the actions of these scholars do not in any way justify the appalling treatment they have been subjected to over the past year and more. We make this call in the spirit of providing sincere counsel, realizing our role as scholars duty-bound to the expression of truth, and recognizing that each of us will be held accountable for our actions in the next life where oppression will be nothing but darkness leading to perdition.

And Allah is in the aid of His oppressed servants. May the blessings and peace of Allah be upon His Prophet.

Ramadan 17th, 1440

May 22nd, 2019

Drafted by Shaykh Salman Younas

Signatories (v. 2)

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

SeekersGuidance

Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Islamic Seminary of America

Shaykh Omer Suleiman

USA

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Canada

 

Dr. Omar Qureshi

USA

 

 

Dr. Abdullah Hamid Ali

USA

 

Shaykh Mustapha Elturk

Amir, Islamic Organization of North America

 

Shaykh Rami Nsour

Tayba Foundation

Dr. Shadee Elmasry

Safina Society

Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Director of Darul Iftaa Leicester

 

Shaykh Azhar Nasser

Tasneem Institute

 

 

Professor John Esposito

Georgetown University

 

 

Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf

London

 

Dr. Jonathan Brown

Georgetown University

Professor Mohammad Fadel

University of Toronto

Imam Suhaib Webb

Scholar in Residence, ICNYU

Shaykh Shams ad-Duha

Ebrahim College

 

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Tayseer Seminary

 

Dalia Mogahed

ISPU

 

Imam Dawud Walid

Member of Michigan Imams Council

 

 

Dr. Asim Yusuf

UK

 

 

Dr. Ovamir Anjum

University of Toledo

 

Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick

USA

 

Shaykh Hani Saleem

Islamic Center of Detroit

Dr. Shabbir Ally

Toronto

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

Dean of IOK Seminary

 

Dr. Ihsan Bagby

University of Kentucky

 

Shaykh Mohammed Faqih

Islamic Institute of Orange County

 

Shaykh Bilal Ali Ansari

Khalil Center

Mohammad Elshinawy

Yaqeen Institute

 

Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan

Co-Chair of National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue

 

Shaykh Sulaiman Gani

London

 

Dr. Hamid Slimi

USA

 

Mufti Taha Karaan

South Africa

Shaykh Sadullah Khan

South Africa

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Chairman of Fiqh Council of America

 

 

Shaykh Taha Abdul-Basser

USA

Imam Ibrahim Hindy

Dar al-Tawheed Islamic Center

 

 

Dr. Basma Abdelgafar

Vice President of Maqasid Institute Global

 

Prof. Jasser Auda

President of Maqasid Institute Global

 

Laila Mehar

Former President of UConn SJP

Hartford

Dr. Osman Latiff

Jamia Masjid and Islamic Center

 

Imam Abdul-Malik Ryan

DePaul University

 

Imam John Ederer

Muslim Community Center of Charlotte

 

Shaykh Amer Jamil

Scotland

 

Shaykh Bilal Ismail

Imam Development Project

 

Shaykh Muhammad Mustaqeem Shah

Walsall

 

Dr. Bekim Hasani

Imam and Activist

Australia

 

Imam Imran Salha

ICA

 

Dr. Tajul Islam University of Leeds

 

Dr. Mustapha Sheikh

University of Leeds

 

Dr. Ahmed Soboh

Religious Director of Chino Valley Islamic Center

 

Dr. Rafaqat Rashid

Al Balagh Academy

 

Imam Shafi Chowdhury

Leicester

 

Buthaina Hawas-Neveln

Iraqi Journalist

 

Shaykh Salmaan Parkar Australian Islamic College

 

Muslema Purmul

The Majlis

Dr. Mohammad Ilyas,

University of Florida

 

Dr. Asif Hirani

Imam and Resident Scholar of Worcester Islamic Center

 

Shaykh Ahmad Kutty

Resident Scholar of Islamic Institute of Toronto

 

Shaykh Mohammad Aman Haque

Norway

 

Imam Mazhar Mahmood

Director of Islamic Foundation of Peoria

 

Ishraq Ali

Organizing Director of MPower Change

 

Usman Qamar

Muslim Chaplaincy of Waterloo

 

Mawlana Zakariyah Harneker

 

Shaykh Shahinur Rahman

al-Rahma, UK

 

Shaykh Abdul Wahab Saleem

Salik Academy

Dr. Usaama Al-Azami

Markfield Institute

Ustadh Samir Hussain

ISNA High School

 

Shaykh Tariq Ata Dr. Zaid alBarzinji

Maqasid Institute

Shaykh Abdur Rahim Reasat

SeekersGuidance

Mufti Liaquat Zaman

Birmingham, UK

 

Imam Salim Astewani

Cheshire, UK

 

 

Shaykh Tabraze Azam

SeekersGuidance

 

Dr. Sharif El-Tobgui

Brandeis University

 

 

Ismail Royer

USA

Imam Qasim Rashid

Al-Khayr Foundation

 

Dr. Yvonne Haddad

Georgetown University

Omar Usman

Executive Director, MuslimMatters

 

Shaykh Muhammad Abuelezz

Muslim Association of Canada

 

Mufti Ismail Syed

London

Mawlana Safwaan Navlakhi

Al-Ma’aly Institute

South Africa

 

Dr. Ildus Rafikov

ISTAC

Aamir Ansari

ICNA

Shaykh Hassan Rabbani

Zia-Ul-Quran Mosque

Scotland

Ustadha Umm Jamaal ud-Din

Islamic College of Australia

Dr. Munir Elkassem

President, Islamic Institute of Interfaith Dialogue

Dr. Yusuf Salah

Khalil Foundation

 

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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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