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Religious scholarship may not be the best (CVE) counter to religious zeal

Monday, June 5th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — nor intellect the best response to emotion ]
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Offered without further ado.

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Sources:

  • SahelBlog, Peter Mandaville and J.M. Berger on CVE, Past and Present
  • TimesNow, Reading Gita, Upanishads to counter BJP and RSS: Rahul Gandhi
  • Mindanao: Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

    Sunday, June 4th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — witnessing the darkness, and the light shining in darkness ]
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    Curse and blessing, simultaneously, might be termed a mized blessing, ne?

    Our understanding of Islam in relation to Christianity may be enhanced by a telling of the cursed, blest hehavior of Muslims in Mindanao, during the evacuation of the city of Marawi: curse and blessing are inextricably intertwined, the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not, the light shineth in darkness..

    **

    Philippine sectarian bloodshed unites Muslims and Christians
    Despite Islamist militants’ attempts to cause division, their violence has prompted selfless interfaith compassion

    [ .. ] Islamist militants in black masks were stationed on bridges – the only way out of the besieged city of Marawi – looking for Christian hostages. A priest had already been kidnapped. Risking his own life, a local Muslim leader had hidden dozens of Christians in a rice mill.

    “He was giving them an orientation,” said the city’s bishop, Edwin de la Peña. “How to respond to questions, to recite prayers, to wear their veils, how to say assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you).”

    The plan worked, but others were not so fortunate, de la Peña said. “When they were asked if they were Christians, they said yes readily. So they were pulled out. And we just heard that they were killed and thrown down into a ravine.”

    Residents of Marawi, on the Mindanao island of the Philippines, were fleeing a surprise takeover by fighters claiming to be Islamic State supporters. They left a burning cathedral and corpses in their wake.

    Stories such as these of brutal sectarian bloodshed, but also selfless interfaith compassion, have rippled across the Philippines.

    Muslims protect Christians under attack from Isis-linked group as they flee Marawi
    “We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Leny Paccon, who gave refuge to 54 people in her home, including 44 Christians

    More than 160 civilians walked out of the besieged Philippines city of Marawi just after dawn on Saturday, deceiving Islamist fighters they encountered by hiding the identity of the many Christians among them. [ .. ]

    “We saved ourselves,” said Norodin Alonto Lucman, a well-known former politician and traditional clan leader who sheltered 71 people, including more than 50 Christians, in his home during the battle that erupted on 23 May in the town of more than 200,000 on the southern island of Mindanao. “There’s this plan to bomb the whole city if Isis don’t agree to the demands of the government,” he said, referring to local and foreign fighters who have sworn allegiance to the ultra-radical Islamic State. [ .. ]

    “We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Leny Paccon, who gave refuge to 54 people in her home, including 44 Christians. “When I got the text, immediately we go out … about 7 o’clock.”

    By then, Lucman and his guests had begun their escape march from another area, holding white flags and moving briskly.

    “As we walked, others joined us,” he told reporters. “We had to pass through a lot of snipers.”

    Some of the civilians were stopped and asked if there were any Christians among them, said Jaime Daligdig, a Christian construction worker.

    “We shouted ‘Allahu akbar’,” he told Reuters, adding that thanks to that Muslim rallying cry they were allowed to pass. [ .. ]

    Christians have been killed and taken hostage by the militants, a mix of local fighters from the Maute Group and other Islamist outfits, as well as foreigners who joined the cause under the Islamic State banner. [ .. ]

    Lucman said that many of those trapped were on the verge of starvation, which also gave them the courage to leave.

    **

    many of those trapped were on the verge of starvation, which also gave them the courage to leave.

    There’s a close and provocative analogy there to the idea that darkness brings out the light, ne?

    More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

    Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]
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    Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

    Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)

    **

    It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

    It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

    Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

    Angaelos’ response:

    As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.

    **

    And here is Angaelos again:

    Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
    By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

    Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

    I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

    This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

    You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

    You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

    Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

    This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

    [ .. ]

    What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.

    **

    I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

    Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.

    **

    To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

    A Message to Those Who Kill Us

    What will we say to them?

    THANK YOU

    The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

    You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

    You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

    We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

    We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.

    For Ramadan and against violent extremism

    Monday, May 29th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Kuwaiti Ramadan ad message: Let’s Bomb Hatred With Love ]
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    At the time I’m writing this, the following video has received 2,298,068 views:

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    One site posting the video commented:

    As we know from the consumerization of Christmas, nothing seems to scream profits to large corporations like a religious occasion.

    In this case, Zain is the large corporation, and Ramadan is the occasion for the video, which features Emirati pop star Hussain Al Jassmi.

    Ramadan, the fasting month in which the Quran was revealed to Muhammad, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Zain is a Kuwaiti mobile telecom provider reaching across the Middle East and Africa.

    **

    The text of the ad, icluding Al Jassmi’s lyrics, is as follows:

    I will tell God everything …
    That you’ve filled the cemeteries with our children and emptied our school desks …
    That you’ve sparked unrest and turned our streets to darkness …
    And that you’ve lied …
    God has full knowledge of the secrets of all hearts.

    I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.
    You who comes in the name of death, He is the creator of life.
    I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
    The forgiving and forbearing who hurts not those who hurt Him.

    God is Greater
    Than those who hide what doesn’t show.
    God is Greater
    Than those who obey without contemplation.
    God is Greater
    Than those lurking to betray us.

    God is Greater
    God is Greater
    God is Greater

    Worship your God with love .. With love, not terror ..
    Be tender in your faith, tender not harsh ..
    Confront your enemy, with peace not war ..
    Persuade others, with leniency not by force ..

    Let’s bomb violence with mercy ..
    Let’s bomb delusion with the truth ..
    Let’s bomb hatred with love ..
    Let’s bomb extremism for a better life ..

    We will counter their attacks of hatred, with songs of love .. From now until happiness.

    **

    There os an interesting comparison implicit here between the words of Christ:

    You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

    and those of the Quran:

    The Koran says in the subject of surrendering one’s right to exact vengeance from another, “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate.” (41: 34) So the Koran holds forgiveness, forbearance, restraint, and turning a blind eye to abuses to be the higher ideal of a belief.

    The text from which I’m quoting here, with the Quranic verse embedded in it, is by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali entited Islam and Thurning the Other Cheek, and includes a thoughtful comparison of Martin Luther King and Malcoom X.

    I’m hoping to write up a fuller comparison between the Christian and Islamic doctrines, possibly for LapidoMedia, and will report back here.

    A popular quote attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib, fourth caliph of the SUnni, first Imam of the Shia:

    Hate no one, no matter how much they have wronged you, live humbly, no matter how wealthy you have become, think positively, no matter how hard the life is, give much, even if you have been given little, keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you, and forgive who has wronged you, and do not stop praying for the best of those you love.

    **

    Blessed are the meek. Ramadan Mubarak.

    O Florida, Florida!

    Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — with application to paras from JM Berger & WIll McCants ]
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    Two from Florida, both yesterday!

    Really!

    **

    The kid who converts from Neo-Nazi to Islam and then kills his disrespectful roomies makes for a brilliant & provocative case study, becaause it so confounds our usual expectations.

    Consider. We are used to the idea of otherwise unexceptional people joining extremist groups, religious or political — we term the process “radicalization”. And under the banner of “countering violent extremism” we encourage people to leave violent extremist groups and fade back into the normal fabric of society — some become anti-extremist messengers, Kerry Noble and Maajid Nawaz being well known examples. And both coming and going, there’s the little matter of messaging — messaging for radicaliziation, messaging for deradicalization.

    But converting from a far-right political ideology to militant Islam? What kind of process us that, and what kind of messaging is involved, or called for?

    I want to focus in on this poor dumb kid Devon Arthurs because he offers an almost too-good-to-be-true instance of two significant ideas from two of our finest analysts.

    **

    Let’s take Will McCants first.

    McCants’ point is that every jihadist (and every extremist, by extension) is subject to a wide mix of drives, some more potent than others, but none of which should be viewed as the exclusive “explanation” for radicalization. As he writes in a gobbit that is now pinned to the top of his twitter-feed:

    The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

    If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

    That’s the general case: but you could hardly have a better instance of how sui generis the process is than our case of the young Neo-Nazi turned Muslim.

    **

    Things get even more interesting, however, when we see how this case fits with a point JM Berger has been at pains to meke recently. In Extremist Construction of Identity: How Escalating Demands for Legitimacy Shape and Define In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics, JM expresses his growing sense that extremism should be studied as a category unto itself — that we should not limit our studies to such brands as “Islamic extremism” or “Right Wing extremism”. He writes:

    More broadly, this paper is a first step in developing and testing the hypothesis that extremist group radicalisation represents an identifiable process that can be understood as distinct from the contents of a movement’s ideology. That is not to say that the content of an ideology is meaningless or unimportant. Rather, this research seeks to explore whether universal processes of radicalisation provide a more useful window into why identity-based extremist movements form in the first place and how they evolve toward violence.

    In the case of Devon Arthurs we have someone who doesn’t only espouse one extremism, but two, in rapid succession. And thus it is plausible to say that it is not Nazism, nor violent extremist Islam, that attracts him, but extremism as such.

    Thinking through our ideas about narratives in radicalization and derad with Arthurs as our instance, raises all sorts of questions: what messaging if any do the Neo-Nazis and Jihadists have in common? What message allows someone to slip from one camp in to the other? And what messaging would be an effectove counterbalance not to one ideology or the other, but to the general propensity for extremism?

    All in all, this kid makes for a fabulous case study in the ease with which our assumptions can deceive us.

    **

    Sources:

  • CBS News, Cops: Florida man kills neo-Nazi roommates over Islam disrespect
  • RawStory, FBI busts ‘Atomwaffen’ Neo-Nazi in Florida for making explosives

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